Senior living communities can’t continue to do things the way they have always done them. Why? Things aren’t the same as they were 30 years ago when retirement communities started to pop-up across the nation, or even 10 or 20 years ago.

Life is a process of growing and changing as new generations of residents in senior living make their way into communities. We no longer are serving a generation of residents that sit down every night for dinner at 5 p.m. and accept being told what they were eating. Today’s older adults aren’t even ready for cocktails until 5 p.m., and dinner is closer to 6:30 p.m., if not most nights at 7 p.m. And when they eat, their dinners don’t just consist of meat and potatoes but now focus on health and wellness, including smoothie bars, gluten-free foods and even pescatarian meal options.

When it comes to programs and events, that in itself is a whole different ball game than when senior living communities first made their mark. Not only are there traditional regularly scheduled events, but programs now are being streamed and viewed on large screens and even smart devices. Additionally, residents now are coordinating and taking the lead with their own programs, events and clubs, committees and educational programming.

Technology has vastly changed so much over the past couple of decades that senior living communities no longer are just using word processing systems or basic phone services; rather, technology now affects all parts of the senior living business. Most communities rely on digital signage, smart phone text alerts and emails to communicate information to residents and employees. Between facilities management, healthcare delivery and office system platforms, most communities are beginning to embrace the sudden shift, some even have smart home applications, such as what our community uses, K4Community.

The healthcare delivery system also has evolved. Due to changing reimbursement and care delivery models, older adults quickly are leaving acute care settings and obtaining short-term rehabilitation and nursing services at senior living communities, meaning older adults have increased support needs and that the clinical skills required to support them has increased and advanced.

As the “world turns” and times change, so has the need for senior living communities as they look to enhance services and minimize business risks and costs associated with supporting older adults. This has meant developing partnerships and affiliations and being creative with how services or support is offered.

In 2018, as White Horse Village, Newtown Square, PA, was preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary in August 2019, the organization began a 15-month process of discerning the organization’s identity, what we had become since opening up in 1989 and what we wanted to be working toward in the future. To stay competitive with the ever-evolving market and remain one of the premier senior living communities in Southeast Pennsylvania and surrounding states, we knew we couldn’t do things the same way they always had been done.

In July 2018, the board of directors, residents and management participated in a scenario-planning session. Market studies were completed and demographics studied to help paint a picture of future service opportunities and the desires of the next generation of residents moving into senior living communities. This process led to an understanding of opportunities we would need to address as was began developing long-range and future facility master plans. Later that fall, the board began an organization-wide process of “appreciative inquiry” to gain a deep understanding of the characteristics that positively defined White Horse Village. From there, a revised vision, mission and core values statements were developed.

Having an understanding of the vision and mission for White Horse Village facilitated the refinement and approval of three strategic pillars that will guide management with developing both short and long range plans to help White Horse Village fulfill the mission to intentionally create opportunities for extraordinary living in a vibrant, diverse community through personal growth, connectedness and relationships. These three pillars focus on the existing campuswide infrastructure and technology services, services provided to existing residents and a focus on evaluating how White Horse Village might partner with others and / or develop services to support older adults in areas external to the White Horse Village campus.

With a vision to inspire a world of possibilities on life’s journey, White Horse Village has laid the foundation not only to continue doing what it has done so well for 30 years but to now build on that and seek to enhance the opportunities for existing residents while preparing to support future generations of older adults at White Horse Village or in the local community.