Dramatic shift to wellness signals new era for senior living communities, survey finds
Mounting evidence in recent years indicates that senior living communities have been trending towards wellness-oriented lifestyles for their residents. Now the findings of a new survey seem to erase any doubt: the tipping point towards wellness has been reached.
Conducted by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), the 2018 Active-Aging Industry Trends Survey, Visions of the Future, queried 673 respondents from a variety of older adult-related organizations about their expectations over a time horizon from 2019 to 2023. A clear majority of staff and managers from senior living communities - 59% - forecast that their business model would be based on a wellness lifestyle with options for care by 2023, rather than care-based with options for wellness.
For an industry that for most of its existence has been based on a model of care, this represents a significant change of direction.
"Over the past few years, we've been seeing a steady increase in investment in wellness-based infrastructures and programming," says Colin Milner, ICAA Founder and CEO. "It's evolved to the point that many communities are not merely updating programs, but making a wholesale shift to a culture of wellness. Until our survey, no one really directly asked if there was a conscious shift to wellness among senior living communities. Our findings indicate that for the first time, a wellness-based paradigm is envisioned by the majority - and that we are witnessing the dawn of a new era for senior living."
The changes typically manifest in the form of expanded programs in multiple areas of wellness, healthier diets, more activities and more emphasis on prevention and quality of life than cures.
"The assumption that life is spent in a rocking chair at age 65 has disappeared," says the report. "Inspired by the philosophy of active aging - individuals living safely and productively, and guided by the seven dimensions of wellness - people in the 50+ age groups are taking action to engage in fulfilling, interesting lives."
Nor is the wellness trend confined to the older adult demographic. A report by J. Walter Thompson says the ‘Well Economy' has permeated the developed world from the US to Australia, China, Japan and Thailand, where consumers and organizations from traditional healthcare, the workplace, food, pharmaceuticals, hospitality and other business sectors are moving towards healthier, more active service models.
ICAA's Visions of the Future reports that a successful wellness culture results from activities, services and a mindset that all make wellness a priority. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of organizations responding gave lifestyle/wellness a high or essential priority, while roughly two-thirds (64%) of senior living respondents said leadership at their organization viewed wellness across all dimensions as a 'must-have.'
For the purposes of the survey, 'wellness' encompasses lifestyle opportunities found within seven dimensions of wellness: spiritual, physical, emotional, vocational, environmental, social and intellectual, including adequate nutrition, housing and access to health care. A wellness culture is one that engenders services and programming that help older adults manage or improve their health, take advantage of social supports, and pursue activities with optimum physical and cognitive ability.
The survey was completed by 673 individuals from a variety of organizations. Those broadly categorized as senior living and care comprised 58%; community/senior centers and government or nongovernmental agencies made up 16%; colleges, therapy clinics and in-home services comprised 14%, and fitness clubs and studios, parks and recreation organizations and other organizations serving adults 50 and over made up 12%.
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