Senior living operations have always prioritized creating a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment for seniors. However, as the needs and expectations of seniors change, the way these facilities are managed must also change. Over the last several years, there’s been a significant shift in senior living operations, driven by a combination of disruptive innovations and the transformative influence of the Baby Boomer generation.
Keep reading to learn how changing expectations are reshaping senior living operations. Plus, discover the most effective strategies to optimize these facilities to meet the evolving needs of your residents while balancing operational challenges.
What Are Senior Living Operations?
Senior living operations involve every aspect of managing and administering facilities that cater to the needs of seniors–including independent and assisted living facilities, memory care units, and nursing homes. The goal of senior living operations is to create a nurturing environment that promotes well-being, social enrichment, and high quality care for residents.
How Baby Boomers Are Transforming Senior Living Expectations
The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is changing the game when it comes to resident expectations for senior living facilities. This aging generation — which numbers more than 70 million Americans — are an outspoken and highly influential segment of the US population. These individuals have maintained more active and enriched lifestyles than previous generations, and they expect to maintain their standards of living even into their twilight years.
As a result, Baby Boomers have higher expectations for the quality of care, amenities, and lifestyle options available in senior living communities compared to the generation before them. In addition, disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic have further amplified these expectations, emphasizing the need for clean, safe, and healthy living environments.
Technology and disruptive innovations have also played a role, as seniors and their families are increasingly seeking facilities that leverage the latest technologies like smart home automation, automated cleaning, telemedicine, and digital communication platforms to help them maintain their quality of life as they age. As a result, technology is key to helping managers and operators of senior living communities level up their facilities to meet the expectations of this generation.
What Do Senior Living Operations Look Like in 2023?
Today, effective senior living operations demand a holistic approach that considers the many different aspects of residents’ lives – from their physical and mental health to their social lives and recreation, and everything in between. Seniors are no longer satisfied with basic things like Bingo games and book clubs. They’re looking for facilities that can foster their continued independence, maintain their overall health and wellness, provide plenty of opportunities for enrichment and entertainment, and help them stay connected with friends and family.
For senior living facilities, this means offering a wide range of services to meet these needs, including but not limited to:
- Food and Beverage Services: Seniors expect their living facilities to provide nutritious and personalized meal options that cater to their dietary needs and preferences. For example, offer a variety of menu choices, be sure to accommodate common dietary restrictions like vegan or gluten- and dairy-free diets, and create community dining experiences that foster social interaction.
- Facility Cleaning: Key to overall health and well-being, senior living facilities must provide a clean and well-maintained environment. If resources allow, be sure to implement regular cleaning schedules, train staff on proper sanitation practices, and use automated cleaning solutions to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.
- Recreational Activities: Offer a diverse range of activities and programs that promote physical fitness, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Maintain a rich community calendar of engaging activities like exercise classes, art workshops, and group outings to cater to different interests and abilities.
- Healthcare Services Integration: Collaborate with healthcare providers to deliver comprehensive medical care, medication management, telehealth options, and wellness programs to ensure residents receive appropriate and timely healthcare.
- Safety and Security: Implement robust security systems, emergency preparedness plans, and health monitoring technologies–including fall detection devices and wearable health monitors–to ensure the safety and well-being of residents.
Challenges with Managing an Assisted Living Facility
As seniors’ expectations have changed, senior living management teams have faced challenges in meeting these heightened expectations. From ongoing labor shortages to budget constraints, keeping up with demand and creating a competitive edge has never been more of an uphill battle. Here are a few challenges that your management and operations teams may be facing — plus some solutions to overcome them.
As labor shortages continue to plague all service industries, many senior living facilities may also struggle to recruit and retain top talent. In fact, according to McKnights Senior Living, “96% of senior living communities are facing staffing shortages, and 61% are concerned that those shortages may force closures.”
One way to solve this challenge is to create a more rewarding work experience for your staff, while implementing technologies that can offload some of the burden from their staff members. For example, using a cleaning automation solution like an autonomous vacuum cleaning robot can save 30% of a cleaning team’s time, enabling them to focus on more engaging tasks.
Another challenge that many senior living communities have faced — especially over the past few years — is increasing costs. Every industry is feeling the crush of inflation, and senior living is no exception. As a result, managing a senior living facility has become a balancing act between offering quality services and amenities to attract residents — without breaking the budget. One way to offset these costs is to improve your operational efficiency and implement effective budgeting and financial planning processes to ensure your resources are properly allocated.
Technology Implementation Challenges
Finally, the world is changing fast, as new technologies emerge every day. Choosing the right technologies, and then implementing them effectively to meet the unique needs and preferences of seniors, can be a major challenge. To help solve this challenge, consider engaging current residents and their families in the decision-making process when evaluating new technologies, and partner with technology providers that offer user-friendly solutions and support services.
Strategies for Optimizing Your Senior Living Operations
To address these challenges and optimize their senior living operations, management and operations teams may want to consider implementing the following strategies:
Take Resident Expectations to Heart
It might seem obvious, but it’s still important to note: the first step to optimizing operations is listening to residents’ wants and needs. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to seek senior living arrangements, their needs and preferences should remain at the center of your decision-making processes to ensure you are spending your time and money on the services and amenities that will resonate most with them.
One way to do this is by implementing systems to gather resident feedback and making adjustments based on their input. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to soliciting feedback, but some senior communities have found success distributing comment cards, which let residents check off whether your various services need improvement, are satisfactory, or exceed their expectations. For a more tech-friendly approach, consider investing in customer feedback kiosks or iPads that residents and their guests can interact with.
Embrace Continuous Training and Development
As your operations evolve, keeping your staff up-to-date on the latest protocols, technologies, and best practices is key. While there are costs and time involved in training, a well-trained staff can keep your facility running like a well-oiled machine. So, consider investing in ongoing training programs for staff members to enhance their skills, knowledge, and understanding of evolving care practices.
Create a Culture of Innovation
In 2023, if you’re not looking ahead, you risk falling behind. To keep your community competitive, encourage a culture of innovation by promoting creativity, idea-sharing, and experimentation. Create platforms for staff members to suggest improvements, pilot new initiatives and technologies, and collaborate on innovative projects that enhance resident satisfaction and increase operational efficiency.
Strengthen Your Strategic Partnerships
Finally, as you evolve your approach to senior living operations, cultivating strategic partnerships with healthcare providers, technology companies, local community organizations, and other relevant stakeholders becomes increasingly valuable. These partnerships can help you streamline your healthcare coordination, effectively adopt and implement the right technologies, access specialized services, and even expand community engagement opportunities for residents.
How Emerging Technologies Help Senior Facilities Meet New Resident Demands
Adopting innovative technologies in senior living facilities brings many benefits that can help you optimize your operations while enhancing the quality of service provided to residents. For example, automated cleaning solutions – like Whiz, the commercial robot vacuum, and the Scrubber Pro robotic floor scrubber – can help streamline cleaning operations by efficiently navigating and autonomously cleaning the premises. These robots not only save your team time, but they also ensure thorough and consistent cleanliness throughout the facility, providing residents with a pristine and hygienic living environment.
Additionally, wearable health monitoring devices enable real-time monitoring of residents' vital signs, ensuring prompt intervention at the first sign of a possible medical event. Telehealth platforms facilitate virtual consultations, enabling residents to access healthcare services conveniently and reducing the need for unnecessary hospital visits.
Meanwhile, smart home automation technologies can help you enhance safety on premise. Some facilities, as an example, are implementing smart voice-recognition technology, which allows senior residents to more easily alert staff when they need care — especially those who may have difficulties reaching or using a button to call for help. Ultimately, these technologies can help you improve operational efficiency, enhance safety and security, improve health monitoring, and ultimately, increase resident satisfaction.
The senior living landscape is rapidly evolving to meet changing resident expectations. To effectively manage senior living facilities in 2023, it is crucial to prioritize resident-centered care, embrace technology and innovation, and create efficiencies to mitigate the impact of staffing and budget challenges. When senior living operators and managers understand and adapt to these new expectations, they can create environments that not only meet seniors’ needs and expectations, but also provide a more fulfilling and enjoyable living experience.
To learn more, see 7 Ways to Differentiate from the Traditional Senior Living Facility.