If we could wipe the slate clean and give senior living a fresh start, what could it look like?
That’s the question asked by global architecture firm Perkins Eastman in a year-long investigation that was co-sponsored by J+J Flooring Group. (Full disclosure -- J+J is one of my clients.)
Called the "Clean Slate Project," the goal was to identify the external influences that have the potential to reshape where seniors live, what they do, and how they access healthcare in the next 10-20 years.
Going Beyond Senior Living Market Trends
I know what you're thinking. Boomers are and will be the greatest influence on senior living in the next 10-20 years. And that's still true.
But given that, Perkins Eastman wanted to go beyond market trends and industry disruptors to find innovations outside senior living that may lead to new models, products, and design strategies. As far as I know, they are the first to tackle it from that perspective.
Their ideas are synthesized into a 60-page report that was released in June. You can download it for free from the Perkins Eastman website (scroll down to find the "Clean Slate Report").
The report centers around four potential “macro-shocks” that are already impacting the senior living industry, which I wrote about in a post last October. But here they are again:
- Tech-Age: how artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality are poised to fundamentally change how older adults engage with the world, and how the rest of the world engages with them.
- Aging in the Community: how services are moving away from a traditional strategy of centralizing care to instead branch out into the communities where older adults already live, work, and thrive.
- Third Act: how the traditional notion of retirement is changing, where lifestyle matters, and continued engagement opportunities abound.
- Paradigm Shifts: the worldwide systemic disruptors we are all facing due to climatic, financial, and political trends.
Besides technology (I'm a geek at heart), the one that intrigues me the most is the Third Act. Because I think that has the potential to have the most impact.
And what's also interesting is that all these macro-shocks influence each other.
Future Scenarios for Senior Living
The Clean Slate Project team also came up with six possible future scenarios for senior living as a result of the macro-shocks. Each takes a different perspective on the possible impacts of the macro-shocks, with a different set of “givens” for each scenario:
- WeTest WeThrive: where seniors can get access to tomorrow’s life-altering technology.
- Into The Wellderness: a cutting-edge community abroad, like in Singapore’s lush tropical islands, that is focused on holistic wellness and alternative medicine.
- Centers for Creative Living: a lifestyle experience subscription service that lets seniors spend the best years of their life living out their dreams in some of the most beautiful and iconic locations in the U.S. and around the world.
- LifePod Homes: an age-friendly accessory dwelling unit in the backyard, freeing up seniors’ homes to rent out for additional income or for extended family to move in.
- Vertical Main Street: a mid-rise residential tower added onto an existing shopping mall that houses a variety of community activities.
- Bed Match and Beyond: a digital platform that connects older adults who are looking for community with like-minded individuals.
What's Happening Now
The future is here, because some of these scenarios are already happening. Bill Thomas's Minka Homes are a realization of the LifePod Home concept. The Tiny House Movement is gaining momentum.
Developers in New York, Dallas, and Toronto have built their own versions of Vertical Main Street multi-use senior living buildings, and many more are in the planning stages in other cities. And according to Senior Housing News, developers are starting to look at existing retail properties to co-locate senior living housing.
Kampung Admirality in Singapore is also a type of Vertical Main Street. This complex has 104 affordable senior apartments, plus a medical center, pharmacy, retail stores, restaurants, open air pavilion with food stalls, public park, and a plaza.
Most of the Clean Slate scenarios are for active seniors who are in reasonably good health. What happens when they become less mobile, more frail, or develop dementia? We'll still need senior living models that address that stage of life.
But clearly, this research gives senior living providers and designers lots to think about. The report authors suggest that to create new models, there may be a need for partnerships -- "particularly unconventional relationships that stretch the current limits of most senior living organizations."
The report concludes by saying, "With a long list of disruptors and new players in the senior living marketplace, the traditional provider is left with three responses: beat them, join them, or get out of the way."
It will be interesting to see where senior living goes from here.
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