Every single resident has a story and some are going to be crazy good.

By Steve Moran

At the end of May we published an article titled Aging in North America:The Greatest Travesty? That looked at the results of a survey Aegis Living commissioned on attitudes of Americans on aging and memory loss. On one hand there was some sobering . . . maybe even depressing news on how as a society elders are viewed. At the same time it suggests some opportunities for the industry. 

Lemonade From Lemons – Fear of Dementia

For good reason, people are terrified of dementia. If it were the kind of thing where someone had dementia and just didn’t know anything was wrong it wouldn’t be so bad, but we know it is a horrible disease and that most dementia residents have a tough go of it on a regular basis. 

This fear is where the opportunity lies. 

We have this huge opportunity to be the subject experts on dementia. There is good data that strongly suggests there are things individuals can do to reduce dementia risks and delay the onset of dementia, like exercise and brain fitness activities. We need to be teaching our marketplace communities about what they can do.

We also need to be talking about what happens when someone you love has dementia in at least three areas:

  1. How to care for a loved one with dementia at home. Both the physical things that need to be done to a home and how to create a safe calm comfortable environment.
  2. How to interact with someone you care about who has dementia. I hear so many stories about people who go visit someone with dementia who have horrible experiences where the visit ends with the visitor feeling helpless and inept.  We are the experts who can help with this.
  3. We need to talk about how there are great dementia care communities that serve high income, low income and medium income elders. We need to talk about what they do and how to pick the right one. 

Lemonade from Lemons – Lack of Respect for Elders

It is unfortunate, but in a medium-sized way, the senior living industry contributes to the lack of respect of elders. 

Then we allow people to come visit these places that old people go when they can’t live at home and they don’t have much value to the rest of society.  We take a big bunch of elders and isolate them in a community.  Once in a while we let a group of them out in the form of a field trip (AKA outing) to someplace where it is obvious they are from some sort of institution.

Sure . . . an unfair . . . over simplified description but that is a pretty realistic perception. The biggest culprit honestly is that the elders of today don’t look very much like the elders of earlier generations. They are healthier and more active for many more years. And too often they behave as if they haven’t managed to accumulate much wisdom along the way.

Doubt what I am saying? Look at the STD rates in any of the big retirement meccas where they have increased by 50% or more.

Making It Better

We have this huge on-going opportunity to be telling our seniors’ stories. Every single resident has a story and some are going to be crazy good. Tell those. Find some of your residents who are still doing some exiting things. Tell those stories too.

This survey mostly confirms what we already know about the ongoing fear of aging. We do have an outsized opportunity to tell the truth and turn this trend around.