Senior Living Industry Report From ICAA Looks To The Future

With input from 150+ thought leaders, the International Council on Active Aging document aims to assist stakeholders in senior living to forge a path towards "next normal."

The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) has released a report to assist stakeholders in the senior living arena to forge a path towards “next normal” for this industry. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICAA brought together 154 thought leaders — providers of housing and services for older adults — to create strategies and tactics to help all segments of the senior living industry emerge from being locked down.

Developed by members of the ICAA COVID-19 Senior Living Task Force, the strategies and tactics are collected in the white paper, “Creating a path towards the next normal in senior living.” This report contains 35 strategies and tactics to maintain safety and reinvigorate lifestyles for older adults living in age-restricted communities and apartments.senior living

“The leadership and staff in all types of senior living communities — active adult, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care — immediately took action to protect the health of their residents when the pandemic appeared, and sprang into action to deliver meals, meaningful activities and programs to keep everyone connected to family and friends,” said task force organizer Colin Milner, CEO of ICAA. “Yet, we realized that the future for older adults and senior living organizations depends on keeping residents safe today, while envisioning tomorrow’s safe home, services, and lifestyle amenities.”

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Photo: Getty Images

Focus On Positiver Culture For Older Aduluts

The ICAA COVID-19 Senior Living Task Force members were especially concerned that the general public has not been educated on the distinct differences among types of senior living options (active adult, independent living, assisted living) and may believe all of them are “nursing homes.” In response, the task force members determined that strategies to update the value proposition of the many communities composing the senior living industry aligned with actions to develop a culture of positive aging, which promotes the health and well-being of older adults.

Developed by members of the task force, the strategies and tactics listed below are intended to trigger actions that individual organizations and facilities can take. Underneath each strategy there are tactics and tasks that reflect what organizations can do today, and what they could do to prepare for the midterm and longterm lifestyles necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The six strategies outlined in the recently released document can apply to many types of organizations:

1. Design, re-design and/or renovate exteriors and interiors of buildings. 

The value of transitioning indoor and outdoor spaces to enable physical distancing and innovative service delivery is suggested, along with identification of infrastructure and renovations that combine healthy approaches with preparation for potential emergencies.

2. Develop purpose-driven, caring, passionate staff.
Because staff members are valuable contributors to the workplace culture and the lives of older adults, there is a collection of options for organizational structures, professional growth and recognition.

3. Provide technology to increase connections, aid efficiency, and optimize health.
The pandemic caused an immediate, wholehearted shift to delivering messages, programs, and health care through in-house portals, tele-health, and internet services. Ideas for implementation assume that will likely be a future need.

4. Develop the culture of positive aging, framed by all the dimensions of wellness.
Approaches to counteract stereotypical attitudes toward older adults and reset organizational priorities are offered, based in a philosophy of helping residents be as independent as possible and engaged in the life of their communities.

5. Establish trust by being prepared to respond to emergencies and unexpected events.
One aspect of the value of senior living is the ability of organizations to be prepared to immediately respond to an emergency, and to be transparent in communicating the status of residents and staff.

6. Update perceptions to reinforce the new value proposition of each type of senior living.
Ideas for wording and stories that organizations can use to relay how the lives of residents were protected during the pandemic while services continued to be delivered, with a call to educate the public about the differences among types of properties.

The need to immediately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected the operations of all senior living organizations, whether active adult or life plan or urban apartment complex. Now that the first months of the pandemic are past, leaders, funders, investors, residents, and families are looking to the future: what will life in a senior living community look like next year, or in three years, or in 10?

Members of the ICAA COVID-19 Senior Living Task Force believe that by combining the expertise of national societies and associations, senior living organizations, and industry suppliers, the “senior living” model will survive and flourish in the post-COVID-19 world, thus providing the place where older adults can enthusiastically engage in life.

ICAA is a professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry and supports professionals who aspire to develop wellness cultures for adults over 50. This support includes creating wellness environments, programs and services. The association is focused on active aging — an approach to aging that helps older adults live life as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness — and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies.

Download “Creating a path towards the next normal in senior living” from the ICAA website here.

Read ICAA CEO Colin Milner’s article on this topic in the June 2020 issue of Facility Executive.