Senior Living Now and in 2028

Maria lived in a colonial-style townhome with 14 stairs up from the basement, and 14 more to her bedroom. It was wearing on her joints to go up and down all those steps. She was also beginning to feel lonely and isolated, since most of her friends had moved out of the neighborhood. After giving it a lot of thought, she moved to a senior living community, and is much happier. She swims daily, is involved in various committees, takes art classes, and loves all of the options she is presented with. For Maria, her new living situation has truly enhanced her happiness and quality of life.

Maria was lucky to find a housing option that meets the needs of her active lifestyle. For many of us, since there is a maze of senior care options currently available, it may be more difficult to find the right fit.

You’ve probably heard various senior housing and care terms — “Senior Living,” “Independent Living”, “Assisted Living”, “Nursing Home” — but you might not be completely clear about what, exactly, they mean or how they differ from each other. Below are descriptions of different housing and care options available to seniors today. Later in this article, we will look at what’s projected for senior care and housing in the future:

In-Home Care: When it comes to in-home care, there are two different broad types of services provides: assistance with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and assistance with IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living). Assistance with ADLs means help with bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, and transferring (moving from bed to chair and back). Assistance with IADLs includes things such as transportation and errands, light housekeeping and laundry, meal planning and preparation, and medication reminders. A newer trend is to combine hands-on care from a professional caregiver with smart home technologies. The cost of in-home care ranges from $10 an hour up to $40 an hour, with the average being $20/hr – $24/hr in the Northern Virginia and DC metro area.

Senior Living Communities: Senior living community are typically for adults 55 and older who are simply looking for a lifestyle free from the noise of children and the worries of maintaining a household. These are typically rental community, with a variety of living options, such as apartments, townhouses, cottages, and even single-family home. These communities may have a shared clubhouse, swimming pool, or golf course, but typically no additional services beyond what you would find in a typical rental community.

Independent Living Communities: Independent living typically describes senior housing for residents who are usually ages 62 or older. Independent living communities focus on active living, offering lifestyles free from the worries of home maintenance and repairs. Services and amenities may include life enrichment programs, wellness opportunities, transportation options, trash removal, maintenance, and repairs. Some communities offer additional à la carte amenities such as housekeeping, meals, concierge services and laundry. The average cost of independent living varies. In rental communities with few benefits and services, monthly rental prices may be comparable to conventional apartments. Add more services and amenities, and costs rise.

Assisted Living Communities: These communities are a popular option for adults who need a little extra help with the tasks of daily living. Seniors who choose an assisted living community are able to maintain some sense of independence in a private apartment while having around-the-clock support from nearby caregivers. The most commonly needed services in an assisted living community are medication reminders and personal care (bathing, grooming, dressing). Housekeeping, meals, laundry and life enrichment programs are also included. Some form of transportation service is usually offered. In 2018, the average cost of assisted living in the Metro DC area is around $6,000 – $8,000/mo. This is one of the highest rates in the nation and is well above the national average rate of $3,650/month.

Memory Care: Memory care refers to dementia-care programs offering specially trained caregivers and a physical environment that supports safety and success of people with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. Memory care programs are typically found inside of assisted living communities, but more and more are being developed inside of skilled nursing facilities. In addition to assistance with personal care, medication management, housekeeping, and laundry, residents in a memory care residence benefit from dementia-specific features, usually including specialty dining services and life enrichment activities.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities or Life Plan Communities: A CCRC, or life plan community, is home to a full continuum of senior care. That means it’s an integrated model that usually includes independent living, assisted living, memory care inside the assisted-living portion of the community, and skilled nursing, with a pricing structure that allows discounts on a range of services for those who enter the community as independent living residents. Many CCRCs also offer home care and hospice services.

There are many downsides to CCRCs, however. Some communities require hefty entrance fees, but promise to try to care for residents even if they run out of money. Others have no entrance fees, but higher monthly fees. Some CCRCs have run into financial troubles, make them risky. Please see our blog post —Another Continuing Care Retirement Community Bites the Dust? — from last week for details on a recent situation, and links to other posts about CCRCs. Families are strongly advised to review CCRC contracts carefully, ask a lot of questions, and meet with an attorney before providing any financial information to the CCRC, and certainly before signing any contract documents.

See our article, Non-Traditional Living Options for Seniors, for other options, such as villages, co-housing, NORCs, and niche communities.

So, now we know what’s available for senior housing today. But, what does the future have in store?

The Future of Senior Housing

Significant changes are coming as we move out of the World War II generation to the baby boomer generation. “Boomers have higher expectations as consumers and a history of having those expectations met,” according to Steve Maag, Director of Residential Communities at LeadingAge, a national association dedicated to advocacy, education and research on aging.

Keeping that in mind, A Place for Mom recently made projections about the future of senior living communities and technology. Here are some significant changes they believe you’ll see by 2028 and beyond:

Boomers demanding more: Customers of the past were more likely to accept the status quo when it came to housing, and weren’t as demanding. Customers of the future will push for more. Retirement and senior living communities will have to respond to consumer demand by providing a greater variety of services that include:

  • Dining options and restaurant-menu meal variety with gluten-free, vegetarian and more culturally diverse foods;
  • more lifestyle and wellness programs;
  • better apartment fixtures, designs, and furnishings; and
  • more ways to pay.

Better Technology: Technological advances will enable seniors to live healthier, richer lives.

  • Advances in telehealth will break down transportation barriers for older adults, mitigate health care costs such as emergency room visits, and help older adults remain in their homes longer.
  • Senior-focused computer systems will help keep long-term care residents happy and engaged, says Tom Bang, CEO of It’s Never 2 Late, a Colorado company that’s developed a picture-based, touchscreen computer interface system and installed the intuitive technology at approximately 2,300 senior living communities in the United States.
  • More advanced sensing technology will also play a part in tracking heart rates and other vital signs.

Family Caregiving will change: In the future, family members will likely be less available to provide caregiving for aging loved ones.

  • More women will likely remain in the labor force longer, restricting their family caregiving roles;
  • There will be a much larger childless population of older adults;
  • Divorce will disrupt family support networks among middle-aged and older people.
  • The decline in family caregivers will put more pressure on formal care providers.

More Cost Transparency: More and more, senior living consumers will expect to obtain pricing information online as a critical part of their search and decision process.

Boomers may move into senior housing earlier than previously: Older adult communities of the future will trend toward becoming more attractive to boomers who’ve reached their late 60s or early 70s, and want to move into senior communities while they’re still healthy enough to enjoy the amenities.

When More Care is Needed

Now, and in the future, most seniors will want to stay in their home for as long as possible. However, if a loved one cannot live independently (even with the help of technology) and he or she is showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives.

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to work with an experienced Elder Law Attorney such as myself. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. As always, please contact us at any time for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-143
Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797

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