Senior Wellness Trends

Facilities gear up to care for mind, spirit, and body.

The U.S. is gearing up for a "silver tsunami," observes the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). Part of that preparation consists of ensuring senior housing facilities are equipped to take care of the increasing number of seniors with memory impairments.

Cognitive Well-Being

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. Put another way, someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 68 seconds. As the population ages, the incidence of Alzheimer's disease increases-the majority of people who have it are 65 and older.1

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans who are 65 and older are expected to double by the year 2050, putting the older adult demographic at 20 percent of the population (more than 89 million).2 With the amount of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease growing-13.5 million in 2050 up from 5.1 million in 2010-memory care is essential.

According to ALFA, one trend that has taken off of late is memory care services being offered in assisted living communities that didn't offer them from the start. Considerably different than assisted living care, memory care often necessitates a larger number of staff tending to this vulnerable population. Many senior living communities are implementing a devoted memory care unit as demand grows and the Alzheimer's population continues to rise.3

Financial Well-Being

Research out of Boston College offers a comprehensive look at the economic circumstances of seniors living in private pay independent living and assisted living communities. The survey, conducted by the Center for Retirement Research, studied 2,616 respondents in assisted living and independent living communities and gathered data on income and assets.

The research found that residents in both independent living and assisted living communities come from mid- to high-income households, receiving the majority of income through Social Security, pensions and private annuities. Most residents are self-sufficient in paying for their care and community. Before they transitioned to their current residential community, many residents needed non-financial assistance.

An overwhelming majority of residents felt they were receiving good value for their money spent.4

Whole-Person Well-Being

Experts predict the Baby Boomer generation will not retire in the same fashion as the generation that preceded them. Instead, they will remain involved, enthusiastic and energetic. As Boomers transition into retirement community living, they will adopt a whole-person wellness philosophy. Resident care providers will need to accommodate this challenge and deliver an all-encompassing program focused on wellness.

According to the National Whole-Person Wellness Survey, a report of continuing care retirement communities and the impact of its wellness programs on residents, the majority of senior communities have adopted a whole-person wellness way of life. Interestingly, the survey found that the physical design of space is directly associated to the level of participation in wellness programs. In fact, the feature mentioned the most in this respect was natural light. In spaces with eight- to 10-foot ceilings, participation in large groups was improved.5

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In the same study, residential care facilities rated the following amenities as being "very important" to residents 10 years from now: group exercise room, exercise/equipment room, computer area, activity/game room, physical therapy/occupational therapy, beauty salon/barber, class/meeting room, parlor/lounge, library, wellness center, walking path, casual dining room, clinic, indoor pool, refreshment area, whirlpool, formal dining room and locker rooms. Going forward, the implementation of these design features will help seniors maintain wellness.


1. Alzheimer's Association. (2012). 2012 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. Retrieved June 13 from the World Wide Web: www.alz.org/documents_custom/2012_facts_figures_fact_sheet.pdf

2. United States Census Bureau. (2011). Older Americans Month: May 2011. Retrieved June 13 from the World Wide Web: http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/2012_facts_figures_fact_sheet.pdf

3. Assisted Living Federation of America. (2012). The Memory Care Opportunity. Retrieved June 13 from the World Wide Web: http://www.alfa.org/News/2306/The-Memory-Care-%C2%ADOpportunity

4. Coe N, & Wu A (2012). Financial well-being of residents in seniors housing and care communities: Evidence from the residents financial survey. 2012. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Retrieved June 13 from the World Wide Web: http://http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/wp_2012-71.pdf

5. Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging. (2012). The national whole-person wellness survey report. Retrieved June 13 from the World Wide Web: http://www.matherlifewaysinstituteonaging.com/senior-living-providers/national-whole-person-wellness-survey-report/%20

Beth Puliti is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.


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