Advancements to Senior Care over the past 15 years

Imagine living in a beautifully designed environment where you have the latest technology at your fingertips. You enjoy a wide selection of delicious and healthy food, and you can choose among an endless array of hobbies and activities to entertain and enlighten you.

You never worry about cleaning, cooking or maintenance — a team of professionals takes care of those daily chores. And if you get sick or require care on a long-term basis, you receive immediate, high-quality medical attention tailored to your individual needs and preferences.

Just a few years ago, most seniors would have considered such a life to be a fantasy. But over the past 15 years, upgrades in dining, physical environments, activities, services, technology and more have transformed the “nursing homes” of the past into attractive, comfortable and engaging senior living and senior care communities.

To understand just how much senior living has evolved, consider these eight significant advancements that now help seniors continue to thrive as they live a younger life for longer.

Advancement 1: Inviting Atmospheres

If you haven’t visited a senior living community in a decade or more, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Most modern communities now incorporate engaging interior design, including beautiful furnishings, flooring, window treatments, complementary art and more.

Neutral, calming colors often combine with design features like fountains and large windows that let in ample natural light. Functional, flexible common spaces — including dining rooms, libraries, auditoriums, lobbies and classrooms — encourage connection and conversation.

Individual residences also have taken on the appeal of home, and residents can personalize with their own decorating styles. Finishes including countertops, flooring, and window and wall treatments have evolved from just a few limited selections to a vast catalog of choices. Modern, natural materials like bamboo have become prevalent.

Senior care areas — including memory care, assisted living and skilled nursing — no longer feel sterile and hospital-like. These areas also include modern furnishings and designs that create a welcoming environment.

Advancement 2: Increased Data Privacy

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, known as HIPAA — along with recent updates to the law — senior living providers have updated and tightened their policies on safeguarding residents’ private health information. Under current law, providers now must assume that any lost or stolen data has been breached.

The new rules have made communities much more careful with their data practices, including who has access to resident information. Senior living communities now typically operate under minimal-access policies — giving access to private information only to team members who really need it.

In addition, training has become the norm to ensure that team members don’t leave protected information in plain sight and that they safeguard computers and other access points. Electronic health records and secure, offsite cloud storage also are helping communities keep residents’ information safe.

Advancement 3: Five-Star Dining

It used to be that retirement communities did not have stellar reputations when it came to dining. In fact, many seniors dreaded moving simply because of the buzz about bad food.

But times have changed, and so have dining choices in senior living communities. Today, you’ll find multiple options for dining venues and food selections. In many communities, you can grab a burger or sandwich in a casual venue, or you can enjoy a sit-down meal in a formal dining room.

Communities typically offer at least two meals a day, complete with both casual and gourmet options. Healthy choices, including salad bars and organic produce, often are on the menu, and the dining staff can customize meals for virtually any dietary need.

In today’s senior living community, residents can make dining a social occasion as they enjoy a meal as fine as in any top restaurant.

Advancement 4: Person-Centered Care

More than any other single advancement, the adoption of person-centered care has resulted in significant, positive changes to the senior living industry. Over approximately the past decade, the person-centered movement has swept communities across the country.

The concept focuses on resident choice in many areas, including dining, activities, personal care and health care. It moves senior living communities away from the hospital-oriented approach popularized in the 1960s and toward home-like, inviting atmospheres that respect the dignity of each individual.

With person-centered care has come a move away from the old “nursing home” model and toward specialized living environments, including memory care, independent living and assisted living.

Senior living industry association LeadingAge notes that person-centered care includes a number of key elements, including:

  • Core values of privacy, independence, dignity, respect and self-direction.
  • Strong leadership and commitment from community management and board members.
  • Team members who value creating a nurturing environment for seniors.
  • Activities and experiences that promote meaning in everyday life.
  • The use of light, colors, sounds, furnishings, and indoor and outdoor spaces to create home-like environments.
  • Personal services that respect individual choices and needs.

Advancement 5: Environmental Friendliness

Today’s seniors care about the environment and find meaning through efforts to care for the planet. Over the past 15 years, the senior living industry increasingly has gone green, from construction practices to everyday operations.

New communities often are built with an eye toward conservation, including the use of natural lighting, toilets and sinks that minimize water use, earth-friendly building materials, and more. Many existing communities have upgraded and retrofitted their buildings and systems to incorporate Energy Star appliances along with energy- and water-saving equipment.

In community spaces and individual residences, along with outdoor areas, conservation is the watchword. During renovations, many communities attempt to donate or recycle as much of the removed materials as possible and to choose environmentally friendly options when redecorating.

Modern communities typically have active recycling programs, and many create community gardens on their grounds. Use of paper is minimized, and communications largely have gone digital.

Advancement 6: Extensive Use of Technology

Speaking of going digital, most senior living communities have done so in a big way over the past few years. With almost everyone using either tablets or mobile phones, Wi-Fi has become a must throughout senior living campuses. Frequently, communities provide separate networks — including a highly secure option for residents and an open version for guests.

In 2014, a survey found that approximately three-quarters of communities have adopted technologies like electronic point-of-care systems and electronic medical records, which increase efficiency and security in data management. Many communities also have adopted technology solutions that enhance safety, such as emergency response systems that residents activate when they need help.

Technology use in senior living communities will continue to advance, with a number of shifts already on the horizon for the next few years:

  • Assistive technologies like personal care robots.
  • Smart networks and devices — known as telehealth — that track residents’ information, including medication administration and vital signs.
  • Technologies that assist with exercise and physical rehabilitation.

With an expected shortage of senior care workers in coming years, technology will play an increasingly important role in providing excellent care.

Advancement 7: Comprehensive Services and Amenities

Modern senior living communities provide a wide array of amenities and services to meet just about every imaginable need. Along with dining, communities typically offer housekeeping, maintenance and lawn service, security, and at least some transportation.

To meet the high expectations of the baby boomers, many communities are expanding services to include offerings like medication management, prescription pickup and delivery, and spa services, among other areas. Many communities also have upgraded security services to include personal emergency response pendants that can be tracked throughout a campus.

Amenities also have expanded significantly over the past decade or so, with communities adding features like gardens, outdoor walking trails, indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, libraries, cafes, courtyards and terraces, arts and crafts centers, wood shops, and others.

Advancement 8: Innovative Programming

Modern senior living communities offer a variety of programming that allows residents to pursue a wide range of interests. From fitness activities to art to day trips, there’s something for everyone.

Most communities now provide diverse programming both within and outside of the community. A typical week of activities might include outings to concerts and museums, fitness and crafts classes, cultural events, reading groups and many other options.

“Nursing Home” No Longer Applies

The old term “nursing home” holds little relevance in modern senior living communities, though an increasing array of quality care options is available. The many advancements in the industry over the past 15 years provide significant benefits to today’s seniors, including the opportunity to remain active and vibrant for much longer.

The future looks bright as well, as technology progresses and communities continue adding cutting-edge options for health care, programming, amenities, services, dining and physical spaces.

We hope this information assists you in making decisions about senior living options for you or a loved one. To learn more about the active lifestyle at Homestead at Hamilton, please contact us.

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