You may have heard that there's a senior living staff shortage. For a number of reasons, owners and operators are struggling with recruiting and retaining employees.
We can blame it on COVID-19, but it's not a new problem.
According to a survey by the National Center for Assisted Living, the biggest obstacle facing assisted living providers in hiring new staff members is a lack of interested or qualified candidates. To try to recruit and retain employees, 93% of providers said that they increased wages in the past year.
Increasing Wages Not the Only Answer
Okay, so increasing wages is one answer to the problem. But it's not the only answer.
Hillary DeGroff and Samantha Belfoure of Perkins Eastman think that to attract and retain employees senior living owners and operators need to create a culture that supports worker needs, health, safety, and holistic wellness. And that means investing in purposefully-designed spaces for caregivers and support staff.
I couldn't agree more.
Hillary and Samantha's recently released paper, "Changing Perspective: Transforming Work Spaces in Senior Living," is what got me thinking about this topic. This terrific 18-page document is an easy read that applies best practices from other markets to senior living.
Three Main Concepts of Purposefully-Designed Spaces
They identify three main concepts that they think are key to purposefully-designed spaces for caregivers and staff:
- Variety: Providing many different areas for staff to utilize throughout the community, including things like staff lounges with phone and wellness rooms and workplace nooks.
- Connection to Nature: Using natural materials and offering access to natural light and outdoor spaces.
- Shared Community: Blurring the lines between resident- and staff-designated spaces, such as meeting rooms, and other social and collaborative spaces.
When I asked Hillary which one of these she thinks is the most important -- the one thing owners and operators should do if they couldn't do anything else, she said connection to nature.
"But variety is also critical," she added, "because it addresses the value that different spaces bring to different people."
Benefits of Purposefully-Designed Spaces
According to Hillary and Samantha, the benefits of purposefully-designed spaces for senior living caregivers and staff are:
- Decreased burnout
- Increased recruitment and retention
- Less emphasis on wage wars
- Decrease in ageism bias,
- Holistic wellness across the community
What senior living owner and operator wouldn't want all these things? Hillary says clients are starting to ask about it, particularly in new builds.
Transitioning from mostly focusing on the resident experience to focusing on both the resident and staff experience is something new for the senior living industry. Maybe for the healthcare industry as well.
If you're looking for more insights on the issues and trends affecting senior living design, check out all the papers in Perkins Eastman's "Connect" series. Other topics they tackled in 2022 were inclusive communities, adaptive reuse, and the longevity revolution.
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Photo: Courtesy of Perkins Eastman.