By Steve Moran
We talk a lot about this in the senior living industry, kind of. The data is quite clear that aging in place is bad for the physical and mental health of older people.
The U.S. surgeon general says the health risks of prolonged isolation are as bad for you as smoking three-fourths of a pack of cigarettes a day (PDF). And that is just the physical risk. In addition, we know isolation is horrible for mental and emotional health.
We are not as aggressive in telling this story as we could and should be. There are likely two reasons for this:
- What we want: Mostly when I talk to people in nonpublic settings who work in senior living, they don’t want to live in a senior living environment as they get older. They want to make enough money to stay at home.
It turns out they/we are no more rational than the public, or maybe the problem is that we have not yet figured out how to create senior living communities that would make living in community the first choice, followed by home, only if that is the only alternative.
- Undelivered promise. Directly related to number one is that, as we look at our senior living communities as they mostly operate, we can see that we are not really delivering what we are promising in terms of lifestyle and experience. Though even this may be a perception problem, knowing that most people who live in senior living communities and their families are really happy with the experience.
Perhaps the problem is that we are looking at senior living with younger eyes that don’t see what residents see.
Fake It Till We Make It
It occurs to me that we are ultimately buying into a societal narrative that tells us, and everyone, that living in a senior living community is bad. Maybe we need to take a “fake it till you make it” approach and every day talk about how bad aging in place really is and how great senior living really is. About how we can hardly wait to move in as part of our aging process.
We keep talking this way, it will change our thinking. When we think this way and talk this way, we will be more convincing.
What do you think?