Beyond Senior Living: Creating Meaningful Connections and Places for Older Adults

October 28, 2022

Enjoying longevity and living well as we age, with services and social connection, is everyone's dream. But traditional communities and service options cannot meet the burgeoning demand and are not the solution for everyone. Coupled with the implications of the recent pandemic and world events, now is the time to think outside of our conventional lenses and comfort zones. 

Ryan Frederick, Founder and CEO of SmartLiving 360, and Sean Kelley, President and CEO of The Kendal Corporation, spoke during the final panel discussion, “Beyond Senior Living,” which was hosted by SFCS Principal Emily Jimerson.

 Frederick began by noting that both men and women describe themselves as increasingly lonely and without close friends. In 1990, just 3percent of men described themselves as having no friends, while 40 percent said they had 10 or more friends. Today, both those statistics stand at 15 percent. A similar disconnection exists for women.

 “How can we create meaningful connections so that people can thrive,” Frederick asked. “We live in a time when it’s harder to get to know people than it once was. We have to work harder now to create these connections across our different backgrounds.”

When it comes to caring for seniors who prefer to age in place, meaning stay in their single-family home, Kelley added: “Connection is the most difficult thing to provide in the home.”

For Frederick, “place” is more than just four walls stocked with services and amenities. It’s also one’s neighborhood, environment, city, state, even region.

“Many people see this as a binary choice of either ‘aging in place’ or ‘skilled nursing.’ When those are your options, people are going to age in place, but rarely is that your best place for every chapter in life, "said Frederick.

Kelley introduced the Kendal Corporation’s Life Plan Community model that is “not created for care but for purpose.” Founded on Quaker principles, Kendal Corporation has created 13 communities in nine states that revolve around environmental stewardship, integrity, social engagement, meaningful connection, lifelong learning, intergenerational lifestyle, wellness, and mindfulness. 

In particular, Kelley showcased Kendal’s newest “Zen-inspired" community, Enso Village in California. “We must listen to the people we plan to serve and meet people where they are with an openness to where they want to go.”

Kendal communities don’t have resident activity directors, he said. Instead, the residents themselves drive the activities.

Market studies traditionally focused on demographics to determine the viability of a senior living community, Frederick concluded. But studies now are starting to incorporate a “psychographic lens” to help determine the mix of people who can add value and meaning to your community.

Kelley concluded: “This moment in time is a real opportunity for developers to be less focused on the type of housing they build and more mindful of how place can positively and profoundly affect the trajectory of people’s lives.”

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