As the coronavirus continues to rage on and winter approaches, people are grappling with the many aspects of life that have changed in 2020 and the ways in which they’ve come to think differently about things. One thing in particular people may have changed their opinions about is senior living facilities. Communal homes for seniors saw some of COVID’s most damaging effects, in spite of the immense amount of care they often provide. Multiple outbreaks of the virus were linked to these facilities, and it’s had many people questioning how safe communal senior living facilities are during a global pandemic. We are certain of it – in fact, we recently spoke directly with 295 people already in retirement or facing it, as well as nearly 700 people who have a parent or in-law facing retirement as well. Senior citizens have had to deal with the brunt of the risk physically as well as geographically.
To see how attitudes are changing in this regard, we surveyed 295 people who are already retired or will be soon, as well as nearly 700 people with aging parents. Both groups shared opinions on how COVID-19 has impacted plans for their living arrangements as well as how they’d like to make updates to their own homes to accommodate some drastically changing living situations. Whether you’re nearing retirement yourself or have a loved one entering that phase of life, it’s likely time to start gathering intel on the changing landscape of senior living. Keep reading for exactly that.
Talk of the Future
Getting the discussion started is paramount. The first part of our study asked the younger respondents with aging parents if they had even broached the topic of senior living yet, considering how much has changed since March of 2020.
COVID-19 has appeared to kick off a lot of conversations – since its onset just this year, 40% of people had discussed their parents’ preferences for senior living accommodations with them. Another 30.2% had spoken of their own personal preferences, while only 28.2% had specifically discussed the safety of senior living communities. In spite of the care they so often provide to their members, the extent of the COVID-related outbreaks in these communities certainly merit a safety-related conversation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends reaching out directly to caretakers about the actions they are taking at the facilities people are considering.
Fortunately, two-thirds of seniors felt they were in agreement with their family about what their living situation should look like in their golden years. Let that statistic be a word of encouragement to those postponing the conversation: 36.9% admitted they had not yet discussed any of the senior living topics mentioned above.
While preferences may not always align with what’s possible in reality, we wanted to know what seniors and their loved ones would prefer in an ideal world. Would they still be open to certain living arrangements after COVID-19? And how had these preferences changed this year?
Even pre-COVID, seniors were relatively lukewarm about their options outside of independently living at home, with only 27.8% saying they were moderately or extremely interested in other living arrangements. It’s not hard to believe that COVID-19 could have taken these lukewarm emotions and dialed them down even further.
Nearly 64% of seniors said they would prefer to continue living at home throughout retirement, as did 50.3% of their loved ones. Nearly half (47.9%) of people thinking about their aging parents or in-laws said their original living situation preference prior to COVID-19 had changed. Fewer than 10% of seniors voiced now wanting to live in an assisted living community or even with family members. With fears around spreading the virus, people have been encouraged to stay away from at-risk relatives. Plus, with safety policies that can lead to isolation and limited visitation enacted in many senior living facilities, it’s easy to understand why living independently at home would be most appealing to many.
The Pandemic’s Effect on Communal Homes
Next, our study turned to look at communal living arrangements specifically. While these are an available option to many, there are people who require the care certain types of facilities provide. However, COVID-19 has created new safety concerns, so we asked seniors how they currently perceived communal living facilities.
Since the pandemic, more than a fifth of seniors considered communal living arrangements to be not at all safe, followed by another 21.7% who believed them only slightly safe. Just a mere 12.2% considered these living scenarios as completely safe for them. Even young and healthy college students are demonstrating the consequences of communal living, so it’s no surprise that the most at-risk communities would want to avoid similar close quarters.
As we also mentioned, however, the medical and emotional support that these communities offer isn’t something that’s necessarily easy or even possible to walk away from for many at a certain age. When we asked how comfortable respondents would be moving into an assisted living facility if they had to, 3 in 10 said they wouldn’t be comfortable doing so. Additionally, 43.7% of seniors said they’re less likely to choose an assisted living community today than they were pre-COVID.
Senior Home Setup
If seniors aren’t enthusiastic about moving in with family or to an assisted living facility, they may need to rethink their current living situation and how their home might need to change to accommodate them as they age.
Most people with aging parents and in-laws (63.5%) said they expected to need to help their parents and in-laws financially during retirement. When it came to senior living home renovations, they were often willing to pay more for their parents’ renovations than seniors were for themselves. Most people (53.7%) wanted their parents to have a button to press in case of emergencies. While this is affordable and effective, it was not the number one thing that seniors wanted for themselves.
When asked what type of renovations would make them the most comfortable living independently at home, seniors often pointed to stair-related improvements. A simple handrail was desired by most, but more than a quarter wanted a stairlift. While handrails can be more cost-effective, stairlifts take the weight off of their bones entirely and provide a smooth and effortless glide up the stairs. If in budget, these are certainly the superior option.
Looking to the Future
Lastly, we looked to the younger generation: the respondents who were not yet of retirement age, but have seen their parents step into retirement – or at least start taking steps to prepare for it. Instead of focusing on their loved ones, we asked them to consider their own retirement. How has COVID-19 influenced their thoughts on where they want to live during their eventual retirement?
The younger respondents were leaning the same way as their elderly parents. COVID-19 had made them much less likely to consider living in an assisted living community (37.2%) or a retirement community (20.1%). Like their parents, they too were more heavily leaning toward independent living at home (62.3%). Living with a family member was also a much more likely consideration in a post-COVID world.
Considering Your Own Future
Considering what you want in your own future may sound hypothetical, but it’s a reality for many already (and will be for you too before you know it). Our study initially showed how important it is to begin having these conversations around preferences and safety with your family and to consider how you will best accommodate those who are getting on in years.
In order to make this new type of setup as comfortable, livable, and enjoyable as possible, consider working with Stannah Stairlifts. We’re experts in the field and can accommodate a wide variety of budgets, homes, and stair shapes. We can help you create a safe independent living situation perfectly suited for retirement in no time. Head to Stannah today.
We surveyed 295 people who reported being retired or nearing retirement (e.g., will do so in the next 10 to 15 years). We also surveyed 685 people who have at least one parent or in-law currently in retirement or nearing retirement. If people reported having both an in-law and a parent in retirement or nearing it, they were instructed to answer based on their parent.
The respondents in the survey of seniors were 43.1% women and 56.9% men. The average age of these respondents was 54.8 with a standard deviation of 10.8.
The respondents with aging parents were 58% men and 41.6% women. One respondent identified as nonbinary, and two identified as transgender. The average age of respondents in this survey was 35.8 with a standard deviation of 8.3.
All averages presented in this project were calculated to exclude outliers. This was done by finding the initial average and standard deviation and multiplying the latter by three. This product was then added to the initial average. Any data point above that sum was excluded from the data.
When asked about how COVID-19 had impacted their likelihood of choosing various living situations in their eventual retirement, respondents with aging parents were given the following scale of options:
- Much less likely
- Less likely
- Neither less nor more likely
- More likely
- Much more likely
In our final visualization of the data, these were combined into three groups: less likely, neither less nor more likely, and more likely.
The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
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