As a new generation of seniors begin to consider retirement community options and what types of eldercare they may need, they are putting their stamp on how the industry is changing to meet those needs. In turn, caregivers who are helping them evaluate their options are also changing the senior care landscape.
In recent years, eldercare providers and retirement community experts have emphasized that the definition of “caregiver” has widened to acknowledge that while this can be a spouse or adult child living in the same home, caregiving can also describe a relative or friend who helps the senior in their life in other ways.
In turn, the demographics for who is doing the caregiving is also changing. A recent article in Forbes magazine noted that more men are taking care of their parents or spouses.
In addition, people who are spending a significant amount of time as caretakers are also younger than they once were.
About one-third of surveyed younger adults reported that they had spent some time caregiving for an older relative. And, as with the general poll results, the percentage of men in younger groups was also on the increase. In fact, nearly half of the younger people who identified as caregivers were men, compared to 40 percent of those older than 40.
Caring for an older relative has probably never been as seamless as popular culture portrays. But recent surveys uncovered newer challenges. The “classic” caregiver was once a woman in her 50s who didn’t have an outside job, Forbes notes. But today, more people are juggling caregiving with other responsibilities, such as taking care of their families. So when those responsibilities include demanding careers, caregivers tend to encounter more roadblocks in terms of finding flexible hours or getting PTO.
While it’s encouraging to hear that more men of all ages are stepping up to help their older relatives, they may have fewer support systems than the “traditional” family caregiver. It can be more challenging for men to open up about their challenges outside of work are – and even with friends, they may not feel that their peers can relate.
New Trends Offer Lifelines
Recent research indicates that family caregivers, along with seniors researching their personal retirement options, have newer ideas about what senior-focused neighborhoods should include. In turn, that is changing what retirement communities are offering in terms of eldercare and other types of senior housing.
With caregivers increasingly younger – and their time stretched more thinly between jobs and their own families – it’s more critical than ever that a retirement community offers a range of services and amenities on site. That allows caregivers to spend time visiting their loved ones rather than running errands.
Among the offerings that are increasingly offered in eldercare and retirement communities are:
- Spas and salons. From routine maintenance like hair shampoos and beard trims to luxurious massages and mani-pedis, spas and salons allow seniors to look and feel their best – all within walking distance!
- Pubs and bistros. Traditional dining rooms are standard in most senior care communities. But increasingly, older adults look forward to sharing Happy Hours, or a casual lunch setting, to socialize.
- Customized meal options. Along with more than one dining space, seniors also demand food choices that take into consideration their specific health needs. They look for kitchen facilities that emphasize healthy and upscale meals and can provide selections for those who are lactose or glucose-intolerant, on low-sodium diets, prefer vegan or vegetarian entrees, among other health and lifestyle options.
- Wellness facilities. Older adults and their loved ones understand that staying physically healthy is vital not just for overall longevity, but also to bolster the immune system and keep brain function sharp. More retirement communities offer premium gym spaces, superior equipment and a range of workout classes. Additional fitness alternatives might include trails, personal garden spaces, and swimming options.
- Cultural opportunities. Senior care neighborhoods should involve a range of cultural experiences both onsite and through day trips. Ideally, a retirement community will have a monthly calendar chock full of interesting lectures, movies, and live performances. Field trips to see shows or tour local points of interest are also a plus. In addition, many senior care communities provide art studios, music classes, and libraries for further stimulation.
- Technological help. It seems that each day presents an innovation or product to the forefront of life. Caregivers find it difficult to help their older loved ones conquer these new forms of entertainment and communication, especially if they’re trying to provide care from long-distance. Eldercare communities that provide staff support and infrastructure, such as resident portals and equipment, are invaluable – even for those residents who are already tech-savvy.
Interested in learning more about how Episcopal Retirement Service is keeping pace with the changing face of senior care? Download our Planning Ahead Guide to learn more about helpful preparation tips and information about aging loved ones.