John O'Connor
John O’Connor

You might say yesterday was Active Adult Day at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Fall Conference, which took place in Washington, DC.

First there was a press conference where NIC officials discussed the organization’s newly minted definition of the term.

“Active adult rental properties are age-eligible, market rate, multifamily properties that are lifestyle focused; general operations do not provide meals,” the organization noted.

Then there was a late afternoon session where several speakers made a compelling case for investing in the active adult segment. Among the advantages cited:

  • Fewer staffing requirements
  • Reaches a younger crowd
  • Can serve as a feeder program

There were a few more plusses mentioned as well, but you get the idea. Active adult has a lot of upside these days. Especially for a sector that in many ways is still hurting.

No doubt about it, active adult is certainly the field’s shiny new toy. But operators would be remiss if they didn’t pay just as much attention to another offering: wellness. For this concept also has plenty to offer.

Oddly enough, perhaps its biggest advantage is that — unlike active adult — it remains a somewhat opaque concept, at least as far as senior living is concerned.

To be sure, the dictionary weighs in on what wellness means: “The state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” But as definitions go, that one is awfully squishy.

As a practical matter, what it means in the context of senior living is, frankly, more aspirational: helping people live as well as possible for as long as possible. And therein lies its beauty: You can offer many different types of services that qualify. Mental wellness? Physical therapy? Preventive care? Spiritual programs? Exercise classes? Spa treatments? They all can have a place in the wellness tent.

In addition to its definitional flexibility, it brings a crucial marketing advantage to the party: wellness is hot. As in, all the cool kids are doing it. According to a McKinsey report released earlier this year, wellness is now a $1.5 trillion market globally — and it’s growing by 5% to 10% a year. If the Kardashians are snapping off a piece of that action, maybe you should, too.

These days, we are hearing more about senior living communities that offer care with wellness. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if we soon hear the terms reversed.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.