Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day, and if the senior living industry wants to attract them sooner rather than later, communities need to start serving older adults’ wants in addition to their needs, John Cochrane said during a recent talk at this year’s National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care fall conference.

Many aging adults aren’t even able to define what they would hope to find in seniors housing, said Cochrane, the president and CEO of Cornerstone Affiliates, a family of companies that includes be.group, American Baptist Homes of the West, Beacon Communities and Seniority Inc. Right now, he said, seniors believe that their only choices are moving into a senior living community to have their healthcare needs addressed or continuing to live at home. Through research, however, Cornerstone Affiliates uncovered three trends that will need to define the senior living communities of the future and make clear to potential residents that a third option exists:

1. Deep personal and community connection rather than social isolation and segregation.

“People who age successfully have deep, personal connections, not Facebook connections,” Cochrane said. “I hate to break it to you, but your Facebook friends are not your friends. FaceTime is not the same as one-on-one conversation. People who age well have deep, personal connections, they have deep community connections, and both are critically important.”

Those connections must extend outside of their own age group, he said. “We need human connection across the spectrum. It’s why people need to be connected to community.”

2. Re-engagement instead of retirement.

“Retirement is a bad word,” Cochrane said. “It’s dead. It needs to get buried. I hope the funeral is sometime next week, and I hope you will all be there. If that word is in your thinking or in your name, for all our sakes, I hope you’ll get rid of it.”

Older adults want to work full time or part time, or they want to volunteer, he said, adding: “They want to engage in learning, but it’s real engagement with their community and with their work.”

3. Proactive lifestyle management instead of reactionary healthcare.

Proactive lifestyle management “does not mean a wellness class,” Cochrane said. “It means, again, fostering the deep connections with the community and with each other that allow people to age with vitality. And that (vitality) is a word that people will use as they talk about the future.”

“Our communities of the future are going to be radically different than they are today,” Cochrane said. “We’re not getting the people who are looking for aspirational well-aging. We’re getting the people who need healthcare. We’re addressing the needs. We’re just not addressing the wants.”

The good news, he added, is that the opportunities are endless to serve potential residents in ways that they want. “It is a big, big ocean of opportunity,” Cochrane said. “We’re going in, and there’s room for everybody. And I hope you’ll be joining us.”

You can watch the video of Cochrane’s “NIC Talk” here.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.