Rich cultural programming, on-demand and concierge services, five-star dining, world-class care — over the years, the senior living industry has clearly defined what luxury looks and feels like. For memory care, that definition is not as clear.
Part of the challenge is that the product type is more clinical in nature than independent living given the nature of living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. While memory care residents can still appreciate the finer things in life, they need a different degree of care than their older-adult counterparts living in other settings. As such, luxury in memory care is fairly different than in other care settings.
One example of luxurious memory care lies within Inspir, a luxurious senior living brand from Maplewood Senior Living with a location in New York City and another coming together in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to luxury in memory care, the true differentiator is not marble surfaces or crystal chandeliers — instead, it is a sense of quality, according to Brian Geyser, who is Maplewood’s vice president of clinical innovation and population health.
“It’s not about the opulence in memory care, it’s really about quality programming and a quality lifestyle,” Geyser said during the annual BRAIN conference in Washington, D.C. last week.
Luxury is also about having a true sense of belonging and purpose, according to Caroline Edasis, assistant vice president of resident engagement at Mather. The Evanston, Illinois-based operator has a high-rise community coming together near D.C. in Tysons, Virginia, in addition to a handful of other communities.
“The general feeling in any setting around moving into a memory support setting is an act of desperation,” Edasis said. “If you are doing luxury memory support, what you have to offer is a compelling alternative to that.”
Luxury memory care’s ‘huge value proposition’
Maplewood’s Inspir community has a unique challenge. Many of the community’s prospective residents and their families in New York City are wealthy and can afford private-duty home care versions of any service they might need in a senior living community.
“If they’re that wealthy, well, why would they even need to move into a building like ours? Because they could just hire 24/7 care and private chefs,” Geyser said. “What they can’t get is the engagement and socialization that we offer, and they and the families can’t get the relief that we provide.”
Chicago-based Vi is currently going bigger with its memory care efforts. As part of those efforts, the company is focused on making sure it actually delivers what it promises residents during the sales process.
The company achieves that in part by tracking outcomes and making sure programming is evidence-based. But another part of that process is translating that to destigmatize it with residents and their families, according to Tony Galvan Jr., Vi’s assistant vice president of living well.
“It seems like there’s still some lack of education or awareness as to … how elevated it really can be,” Galvan said. “As an industry, we need to do a better job when we market and promote.”
Vi’s luxury memory care is rooted in catering to residents’ specific whims and creating person-centric programming and care wherever possible.
“The fact that we are able to do that in a memory support setting is something that we really want to communicate to folks so that they understand how the elevation of that experience can be luxurious,” Galvan said.
At Inspir, all residents get the “Manhattan experience” of world-class arts, culture and food, with modifications where needed to ensure residents can best enjoy them. For example, the company works with theater troupes and partners with other organizations that have experience working with older adults with dementia.
Inspir residents also get top-notch care coordination and medication management, which helps take the burden off of their adult children, Geyser said.
“That’s a huge value proposition,” he said.
Mather creates a similar value in its communities by engaging residents and making sure they have top-quality care.
“What better scenario is there than to spend this 10 years with your parent enjoying music — or dance, or poetry, or gardening, or cooking together — than worrying about their care needs?” Edasis said.
She added: “The ultimate luxury is belonging.”
Mather tailors luxurious experiences to residents’ levels. Many of the organization’s residents enjoy theater and culture before they need memory care — “and there is no reason that that should stop,” she added.
“Instead of going to the concert with front row seats, they now have a dancer teaching a master class in their living room, or they have a composer composing music with song lyrics in their living room,” Edasis said.
In terms of design, the memory care sector has long subsisted on communities that resemble either “waiting rooms in a doctor’s office or a Disneyland main street,” Edasis said. With luxury memory care, operators have a real chance to experiment with how memory care communities are built in order to create something truly new.
“We don’t have to be limited to that Venn Diagram of hotel, hospital, office, workplace,” Edasis said. “We can look to other places of community, connection, culture and society as inspiration to design things that are really breathtaking.”
Technology helps make the difference
In 2023, senior living communities are increasingly powered by cutting-edge technology. Technology has an important role to play in memory care — and that is doubly true for those in the luxury sphere.
Residents and their families will enter communities having used a great deal of devices, and they will expect the same level of connectivity and use even when they’ve moved into senior living. On top of that, technology can be a powerful differentiator over competitors if operators can show how it enables a better quality of life for residents.
Maplewood’s approach is wide-ranging and the company is constantly assessing emerging tech for use in senior living, Geyser said. The company worked with Inspiren, Inc., to create “Augi,” a tech system whose name is a portmanteau of the words “augmented” and “intelligence.”
The service has a wide range of uses, including in memory care. Augi — which is a HIPAA-compliant system that uses a wall-mounted sensor to keep an eye on residents and their sleep, mobility and activity patterns — can both detect when a fall has occurred or warn staff when one is about to occur.
Using Augi is voluntary, and Geyser thought it might be hard to convince families to implement it. But “100% of them immediately raised their hand and said ‘We want in,’” Geyser said — an indication that this is a highly sought after feature of luxury memory care.
“They’re less concerned about privacy and they’re much more concerned about safety,” he added.
Augi is also able to track staff whereabouts, and over time, it has given Maplewood a good idea of who needs the most care in its community.
“We can go in in the morning, look at the dashboard and see who’s red, who’s yellow, who’s green, and that helps us allocate resources to different parts of our buildings,” Geyser said.
Technology is also important at Vi, and “vital” in memory care settings, according to Galvan. Data collection is a big part of what the operator does in its communities, and he added that tech helps the operator record residents’ life stories and enhance their care.
“Especially during non formalized programs — like, what happens during evenings or weekends, when things aren’t necessarily on a schedule? How could you leverage this information to engage some of these folks accordingly?” Galvan said. “That’s where technology can certainly have an advantage.”