Wellness Continues to Replace Care as Main Focus of Senior Living Operations

Wellness has been a buzzword in senior living for some time, and new survey numbers showcase that it is replacing “care” as the driving concept for community operations.

The International Council on Active Aging asked 267 senior living professionals this question: Will their community be based in a wellness lifestyle with options for care, or will it be based in care with wellness offerings, by 2023?

About 60% of the respondents said their community will be based in a wellness lifestyle. These respondents included people who work in life plan communities, independent living, memory care, assisted living and other 50+ age-restricted housing.


“Their opinions are likely influenced by the level of functional abilities of the older adults they work with, as well as their knowledge of the organization’s strategic plan,” the ICAA report authors wrote. “However, the number of respondents who had a clear idea indicates there is momentum for a given direction among the staff, who are influenced by the attitude of leadership.”

The report defines wellness as created through engagement across multiple dimensions of a person’s life. Across all types of organizations surveyed, programs were most frequently available to address physical, cognitive/intellectual and social dimensions. In addition to senior living professionals, ICAA surveyed people working in a variety of other settings, including community/senior centers, fitness clubs, in-home care and therapy clinics. In total, 673 people answered questions for the survey.

Over the next five years, these are the wellness programs that will increase the most overall, the survey found:

  1. Education and lifelong learning
  2. Exercise (both instructor- and technology-led)
  3. Health education and disease management
  4. Food and nutrition education and preparation
  5. Intergenerational programs linking youth and older adults

The paradigm shift away from care toward wellness can be explained by several factors, the report argues.

One reason is that people are not only living longer but are remaining more healthy and active than previous generations. At the same time, health system changes are prioritizing preventive medicine and population health, creating incentives for organizations to foster wellness rather than treat illness.

The findings of the ICAA report dovetail with trends that Senior Housing News analyzed in its 2018 report, “The Wellness Revolution Shaping Senior Living.” The increasing focus on wellness is not unique to senior living, that report emphasized. As people of all ages are taking an increased interest in wellness, other industries are shaping their offerings to meet consumer demand. Senior living providers can take cues from — and even form partnerships with — hospitality, fitness, dining and other types of businesses to create and strengthen wellness programs.

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Cover image of the SHN report "The Wellness Revolution Shaping Senior Living"

Interested in learning more about the rise of wellness in senior living? Click here to access Senior Housing News’ complete report on the topic.

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