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Changing Nature Of Senior Living

Recently, we’ve written much about what has changed at John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center and what has stayed the same.  It made us think that it might be beneficial to outline what has changed on a macro level with senior living in general.  These changes have occurred gradually over many years, but in a nutshell….your senior living isn’t the same as your parent’s senior living.  Let’s take a look at some of the changes since senior living came to the forefront about fifty years ago.


Much of what’s changed can be boiled down to the changing demographic of seniors since the mid-1970s.  When John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center was built in 1975, it was not uncommon that people would downsize and move into a retirement community around the age of 65.  They were still relatively healthy and active and might spend 20 or 30 years on campus depending on how long they lived.  Now many people are working until the age of 70 or longer.  They typically want a good 10 years to do whatever they want before they start thinking about senior living, which puts their move in ages closer to 80 or above.


As you would expect, since people are older when they move to a retirement community like John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center, many times they are less mobile, healthy and active than they were when they moved in at a younger age.  This has resulted in less time spent on retirement community campuses.  The average is now closer to 7 or 8 years vs 15 to 20 years in prior generations.  With people having higher acuity health conditions when they make the move, it requires retirement communities to provide more health services to these people to maximize their independence.  At John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center, we provide wellness checks and medication management in the independent living setting to help people stay independent as long as they can.  This helps them maintain a safe setting at a lower cost than being cared for in a health center.


I’m sure you can imagine that older age at move in and poorer health has a direct impact on the cost and financial viability of retirement communities.  When people are spending less than half the average time on campus that they used to, it becomes harder for senior living operators to build and maintain occupancy and, thus predictable revenue.  Further impacting the financials is the preparedness of this generation of seniors.  The potential pool of senior living residents is less prepared for the financial cost of senior living than prior generations.  Part of this is due to the unexpected and exponential increase in what it costs to run a retirement community.  But, at least part of it is that the current generation of seniors has done a poorer job of preparation.  They are less likely to have personal savings or long term care insurance to pay for care as they age.  Some of this is due to insurers providing less comprehensive options to customers.  Customers used to be able to buy long term care insurance policies that would cover their healthcare costs indefinitely.  Now, there’s a cap on what they’ll typically pay.  Furthermore, retirement communities are less likely to offer options with financial protection for higher levels of care.  John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center is no exception.  As previously shared, we recently ceased offering our Life Care product and converted to a rental CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community).  The Life Care product with the entrance fee needed to buy down the cost of your future healthcare became less appealing to residents as they were at an older age upon entrance… previous generations they could rationalize the entrance fee because they were going to live here for 20+ years and they’d receive the financial protection to boot.  At an older age with more acute health conditions, many were not willing to pay the entrance fee.  The product also became less appealing to organizations running retirement communities as they’d start providing discounts in assisted living and skilled nursing after just a few years.


As we consider how retirement communities have changed over the last few generations, it can probably be summed up to some degree by a description of the residents we serve.  Many of the people in independent living today would have been in assisted living 25 years go.  Many of the people living in assisted living today would have been in a skilled nursing setting 25 years ago. And, many of the people receiving skilled nursing care today would not have been alive 25 years ago.  Medicine and care have advanced over time and people are living longer.  As an industry, we have to advance with them and meet the needs of our residents.  At John Knox Village East & Meyer Care Center we are committed to meeting the changing needs of our clients and their families now and in the future.

Should you have any questions, call us at 660 584 7111.  We’d be happy to chat with you.

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