Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

By Steve Moran


“Just like home.”

“Your new home.”

“Your new assisted living home.”

“Home-cooked food.”

Over and over again and with endless variations, senior living communities market themselves as home or homelike. It is simply not true and we need to figure out how to address this fraud.

The Reality

That 87-year-old who is moving next Tuesday is leaving her home of 20 years where all her stuff is. Sure, she may take her bed, a chair, a desk, some pictures and scrapbooks. The rest of all her precious items – collected over decades – will be gone forever.   

It’s Worse Though

The big moving day comes, the final paperwork is completed, her things are moved into her new apartment at your senior living community.  She has a nice lunch or dinner with her family, maybe gets introduced to another resident who will help teach her the ropes and she heads back to her new “home” for her first nights sleep.

Her new routine will be completely different. She will have to dress for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She will be pressured into participating in various activities your community sponsors each day with many of them being silly, adolescent activities where five years or ten years earlier an invitation to participate in those kinds of activities would have been insulting (and maybe still is).  

Sure, she will have help with dressing and others will prepare her meals so that she can . . . play bingo for candy bars . . . yes I do know some residents live for bingo and that is fine.

Right or Wrong

I am not judging the right or wrongness of what it’s like to live in a senior living community . . . well ok maybe I am . . . but I am not so sure a close facsimile of what I just described would hold very much appeal for me when I am 87.

I am not saying that if I were 87 and not able to care for my daily needs I shouldn’t move into a senior living community. It might very well be the very best thing for me, but it does not mean I will like it very much.

Insult to Injury

In the morning your new resident is still in bed when there is a sharp knock on the door, followed just a moment later by the door opening and someone in a uniform she has never met walking into her private bedroom to help her get up so that she can come to breakfast.

In a flash, that resident realizes that her days, her routines will look nothing like her days at home. Routine patterns and chores are gone forever, replaced by new social norms and requirements. She will have had no idea what this move really entailed, no idea that she was leaving home for something completely foreign and different.

Figuring It Out

Maybe this is the best we can do, the right thing to do. Over time we know that a significant number, though less than half of your population, will begin to see your community as home. In the meantime, because the radical change is beyond anything she could have possibly imagined, the depression, dementia and fear will spike like crazy.

We need to make sure they know exactly what their new fake home-like living arrangement will really be like.

Somehow we need to figure out a way to create as much home as possible in the day-to-day life of residents. If we don’t, we will see new models, one of which I will talk about in a couple of days, that will knock the socks off our predominate senior living model of today.