Shaping the Future: Trends in Senior Living

May 16, 2024

As the landscape of senior living continues to evolve, it's imperative for industry professionals to stay abreast of the mega, macro, and micro trends reshaping the sector. From recalibrating business models to embracing design innovations, the following insights from our 2024 By Design session “Shaping the Future: Trends in Senior Living” shed light on the multifaceted shifts impacting the industry.

Recalibration in a Changing Environment

The economic landscape remains a key factor influencing senior living, with projections indicating an unlikely recession in 2024. While inflation rates are decreasing, societal unease persists, compounded by the uncertainties surrounding the upcoming election. Additionally, the shortage of caregivers and longer construction times necessitate innovative solutions such as Lego building techniques and robotics to expedite processes and reduce costs.

Data-Driven Personalization

“Your organization, your community, your staff, and your residents are the single best source of your data. Another thought that is out there, and there are providers who are doing it, is is the notion of decoupling healthcare, housing, and hospitality,” said Melissa Pritchard, Managing Principal of SFCS. In an era marked by shifting social norms, the demand for user personalization is on the rise, with which unbundling services can help. Senior living communities must leverage data more effectively to tailor services to individual preferences.  

Macro Trends Shaping the Future

A myriad of macro trends, from the normalization of ageism to the rise of “solo agers” and shifting marriage and birth rates, underscore the evolving demographic landscape. Environmental, social, and governance considerations are increasingly crucial, with a growing emphasis on wellness-centric amenities, sustainable practices, and communal experiences like pickleball and farm-to-table dining.

Micro Trends Driving Innovation

Collaborative planning approaches and the unbundling of services are gaining traction, allowing for greater flexibility and customization. Membership-based models, subscription services, and innovative memory care programs reflect the industry's responsiveness to changing consumer preferences. Moreover, emerging competitors such as active adult marketing initiatives and unconventional housing options like Costco Bulk Housing and Amazon Affordable Assisted Living highlight the need for adaptability and innovation.

Design Trends for the Modern Senior Living Community

Innovations in design, such as dual primary suites, tiny town developments, circadian lighting, and wellness-focused communities like Serenbe, are redefining the concept of senior living spaces. When reviewing Serenbe, Emily Jimerson, a Principal at SFCS said, “This community promotes itself as a pioneering wellness community and the leadership plans on using some of the acreage to do an aging-in-place campus.” These design elements prioritize sustainability, inclusivity, and age-friendly features while fostering a sense of community and well-being.

“The reality is that these trends are not siloed. They are all connected and influence each other. We must be thinking about all of them at the same time and figuring out how to implement and react to each of these,” said Pritchard. Navigating the ever-changing landscape of senior living requires a nuanced understanding of emerging trends and a commitment to innovation and adaptability. By embracing data-driven personalization, reimagining business models, and prioritizing holistic well-being, senior living communities can thrive in an era of rapid transformation.

This session was presented by Melissa Pritchard, SFCS Managing Principal, and Emily Jimerson, SFCS Principal. Pritchard has over 25 years of experience designing for seniors and has participated in numerous senior living research studies which continually inform the design work at SFCS. Jimerson has over 12 years of experience in senior living design and drives innovation while leading her design teams. Both Pritchard and Jimerson speak nationally several times a year on SFCS thought leadership initiatives.

In addition to the trends mentioned in this article, they also covered topics like environmental social governance, balancing the business model in a senior living community, emerging alternate options rising to compete with the traditional senior living community, and wellness trends.  

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