Sally Abrams is one of best known writers on issues related to aging. She was gracious enough to allow me to interview her about her passion for aging issues and her views on the world of senior living.
A number of months ago I connected with Sally Abrahms. You have likely seen articles she has written on baby boomers and seniors. She is curious about all things related to aging and someone worth watching.
I requested an interview and here is what she had to say:
You are well-known expert/writer on many aspects of aging at places like AARP. Who else are you writing for?
Besides AARP, this year I’ve written stories for the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, Forbes (forbes.com), the Huffington Post, PBS’s nextavenue.org, and others. I’ve ramped up my corporate work and am doing more content writing. This includes blogging for Intel-GE’s Care Innovations and creating online and print content (articles, web work, marketing materials) as well as advising companies that focus on boomer and senior housing.
Maybe we can start with a short biographical sketch of who you are, what you do, why you write about seniors.
I am a writer for consumer and corporate clients. My first job was at SEVENTEEN magazine and my first national magazine piece: “Do Boys Like Independent Girls?” Thankfully, I’ve graduated to more meaningful work and have published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TIME, Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and PARADE on more substantive subjects relating to family issues. I’ve written for Costco’s and BJ’s Wholesale Club magazines and special sections as a content writer and so I “get” the corporate bent. Ten years ago, I realized that when I got together with my boomer friends, rather than talk about our kids or our jobs, we were worrying about our aging parents. If they stayed in their house, was it safe? How could we make it safer? If not, where would they go (move in with us?) and what kind of place would meet their needs? I am familiar with different kinds of senior housing. My father lived at home until he died, my mother moved into independent living at a CCRC, and my mother-in-law was in assisted living and is now in a skilled nursing facility. One of my first pieces for TIME was on senior cohousing and I have published a 10-part boomer and senior housing series for AARP, both print and online. My passion continues to be housing issues, which is why I’m focusing my corporate work on it. Of all your writing on senior issues,
what is the one you are most pleased with (either a single article or a specific issue)?
What gives me the greatest pleasure is educating others, whether they’re in their 40s or their 80s, about housing models and options, current, in the works, and in the future, so they can make better choices.
How do you see the needs/wants of seniors changing with the emerging wave of Boomer seniors?
As I said in a chapter I wrote in an upcoming book on retirement, “Boomers aren’t going to take aging lying down.” They refuse to accept today’s traditional nursing homes. Rather than grow old in isolation, the Me Generation (which should be retitled the “We” Generation!) plans to do it together. That could mean aging in place with community support and services, sharing housing or moving into a Green House family-style nursing home. And, aging in place technology will play a prominent role. The 78 million boomer demographic ensures they will have more choices if they demand them—which they are. It’s a fascinating time to be a boomer and write about it.
Because my focus very specifically is senior housing, which means in effect I am an insider, I worry that I don’t have the same perception of senior housing as someone who writes from a higher view. How do you see the senior housing options that exist in the marketplace today?
Not varied enough, but making progress. We have multigenerational designs (Lennar’s Next Gen model and other companies.) Niche communities that are CCRC’s on or near university campuses. LGBT senior housing. The aging in place Village model. Cohousing. Active adult communities. Even with all these choices, the senior housing industry is still evolving and growing. You could say it’s in its adolescent phase!
If you were hired as a consultant to help design the perfect senior housing community what are the things you think would be most important? What are the things that should be left out?
I’m not an architect, but here’s my dream: A good balance of privacy and social interaction, fabulous exercise facilities, first-rate medical care, a warm and responsive staff, and the ability to call the shots as much as possible. It would be within walking distance of a city or suburban town center so residents would be near restaurants, movies, stores, and people of all ages—the world outside their senior community. Residents would be able to continue making meaningful contributions (volunteering, mentoring—feeling that they have a purpose). There would be ongoing, varied stimulation—lifelong learning, and rich cultural events not only in senior housing, but also outside the facility. When I look at the physical layout (central nursing stations, shared rooms, an institutional feel) and offerings in my mother-in-law’s nursing home (the highlight is bingo), I want to weep. At least when boomers hit the nursing homes, most will be following the Green House, neighborhood “home” model.
Can I ask this? As you personally look down the aging path, what are the positives; the things you are looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to continue doing what I’m doing until I can’t anymore! I feel fulfilled and love being active. But when I slow down or have to change course, I know there will be more housing choices out there than today. Some of those choices have yet to be even thought of! But I’m not worried. As a boomer who is part of the Forever Young Generation, I know we will refine and reshape old age, including senior housing, just as we have done at every other stage of life. We’re independent minded, not to mention a force! You can find about more about Sally or contact her about writing projects at her website Sally Abrahms.
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