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The Senior Care Industry Enjoys Growth, Faces Challenges as the Nation Ages

The senior living industry is set to grow wildly over the next 20 years but the industry faces several challenges. The number of consumers will increase dramatically, but the tsunami of older adults will come with more chronic diseases and higher expectations for quality care.

Regulatory changes are sweeping the nation, and some new regulations could present obstacles to consumers and to those in the senior living industry. A new roadmap could serve as a guide to help care providers and other professionals navigate the uncertain waters flooding the senior care industry.

The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011. When the last of this generation turns 65 in 2029, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Baby Boomers will represent about 20 percent of the population. The Census Bureau predicts that, by the year 2056, there will be more people over the age of 65 than there are people under the age of 18.

Since 7 out of 10 people over the age of 65 require some form of long-term care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the aging population creates an unparalleled demand for senior care. Jobs in the senior living industry increased continuously even as other industries shed jobs during the Great Recession. In fact, the industry added more than 84,000 jobs between 2007 and 2010. This demand is likely to continue increasing for decades as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age.

Before the 1980s, older adults who could not live safely at home – even with the help of family – usually faced institutional care. Now, more than 733,300 people over the age of 65 live in senior living communities that provide professional assistance as needed while keeping the resident’s privacy and dignity intact.

To keep up with this flood of consumers the senior living industry must recruit 1.2 million new employees by 2025, according to a new Argentum report, “Getting to 2025: A Roadmap for the Senior Living Industry.” The report details how the industry must create attractive working environments, address regulatory changes, and facilitate effective career paths to bring more workers into the field.

A Roadmap for the Senior Living Industry

“Getting to 2025: A Roadmap for the Senior Living Industry” analyzes the current state of senior living care and predicts growth over the next decade. The authors consulted with hundreds of top executives and administrators, policy experts and other thought leaders to create the roadmap. Using new research, the authors summarized the most significant opportunities and challenges facing the industry.

Statistics presented by “A Roadmap for the Senior Living Industry” show that senior care positively benefits the overall economy. Between 2001 and 2014, the senior living industry outpaced U.S. job growth by 3.7 percent. Total employment in the industry skyrocketed 68 percent during those years, creating more than 346,000 jobs.

Based on its 2012 to 2025 projections, the roadmap predicts the top jobs in the industry will include health care, personal care, administration, management, food service, installation and repair, and maintenance.

The roadmap focuses on several key areas of the senior living industry, including:

  • Workforce development
  • Quality care
  • Operational excellence
  • Memory care

Workforce Development

More workers are currently choosing health care, and specifically senior living, as a career path but the industry will need more workers as the number of people over the age of 65 increases.

The senior care industry will likely be competing with other health care sectors and the service sector as a whole to find employees. These factors will challenge the industry’s ability to grow and meet the future needs of seniors. The industry will need to be innovative in its approach to attracting workers and creating a strong workforce of qualified employees.

Success will also depend on:

  • Retaining public policies and preventing any policy reforms that would negatively affect providers and the people they serve.
  • Expansion of job creation.
  • Investment in training and development opportunities for current and future workers.
  • Research that reveals the forces driving employment and engagement.
  • Academic partnerships that address the growing need for senior care professionals.
  • Expansion and promotion of senior housing management programs and certifications.
  • Development and tracking of baseline metrics that gauge employee perceptions, engagement and satisfaction.
  • Development of credentials that elevate the perceived status of the profession among current and prospective workers, and serve as standards for evaluating staff qualifications and proficiency.

Quality Care

Physical activity, social interaction and a healthy diet help prevent chronic disease while increasing longevity and quality of life for older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Senior care helps older adults get the exercise, diet and interaction with friends and family they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

The Argentum report says, “Residents and families report high satisfaction levels with their senior living experience.” On the downside, the report says that significant growth in resident acuity within the next decade will have a tremendous effect on the senior living industry. Three out of every four senior living residents have at least two chronic conditions.

Furthermore, 30 percent of states changed their assisted living regulations in 2012 and 2013, and these changes are affecting regulatory models across the nation. To address these immediate issues, the senior care industry must implement standards and professional certification programs to show its commitment to quality. Licensing can protect residents and their families from unlicensed providers, who harm consumers with substandard care and hurt the reputation of the senior care industry as a whole.

Operational Excellence

To operate in the black and still appeal to an increasingly demanding consumer, industry executives must improve efficiency within the operating environment. The creation of new business relationships, technology and innovation can help these executives attract and retain residents and clients by optimizing the consumer experience, from getting the most out of a visit to the doctor’s office through creating a personalized care setting.

Integrating online databases and tracking systems can improve management of resident information, such as medications, schedules and visitors, to improve quality and consistency of care.

Memory Care

Senior living professionals provide care, research, community and support for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The number of people with memory problems will likely grow rapidly as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. The senior care industry must step up its efforts to provide the advanced technology, services and research need to promote treatment, cure and greater quality of life for those with memory problems.

The senior care industry will flourish as the population of the United States ages, but the industry also faces significant challenges in the years ahead. The Argentum report sheds light on how the industry can meet these challenges to provide quality care to growing consumer demand.

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