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Global Insight for Senior Care in 2020

Key Takeaways from Fortune’s Global Forum: The Longevity Economy – Meeting the Needs of the Aging Consumer

Approximately 111 million Americans are over 60 years of age. Their buying power is an important driver of the global economy. And yet we’re conditioned to consider this essential segment of the population as relegated to simply retiring and needing care. Instead, we need to be thinking of seniors as representing exciting demand for goods and services.

It was my privilege to participate in Fortune’s Global Forum: The Longevity Economy on November 11, hosted by AARP.

Fun is Fundamental

Rather than simply retiring, seniors want different opportunities. Rather than simply coming to the beginning of the end, they’re actually beginning a new stage of life, with new desires and a great hankering for fun. In fact, as we discussed, the tech, leisure, and education industries are major beneficiaries of this population.

As we age in an ever-advancing landscape of technological innovations and advancements in science and medicine, we expect to live longer and better than previous generations. Seniors represent an exciting consumer group. They know what they want – and they’re spending on themselves as well as spending on their family members.

What we’ve learned in the pandemic is that social isolation can be devastating. Many communities are worried about the mental health of residents or their overall deterioration due to social isolation. What it comes down to is the care and attention of the staff and leadership in these communities. I am so heartened when I see pictures of ice cream carts going around communities, or teams baking cookies with residents’ names on them. Or dance contests on residents’ balconies! That factor of fun is necessary – and even more so during a pandemic.

Leveraging Learnings from Our Global Team

It has been my privilege to learn at a global level what seniors expect and deserve when considering this new stage of their life. In the face of the pandemic, I’ve kept in touch with my counterparts around the world. Our Sodexo Seniors CEO in China was able to share learnings about COVID-19 earlier than anyone else, providing vital insight to our teams in senior living here in North America.

We’ve been able to leverage our global supply chain to acquire sufficient PPE to protect our staff and residents. We’ve been able to adapt early and easily to ensure our operations were as safe as possible, while maintaining the comfort of our seniors.

Implicit Biases

As my fellow panelist on Fortune’s global forum, Cindy Gaines (chief Nursing Officer, Population Management for Phillips), pointed out, we bring our biases when we consider caring for seniors. We must remain keenly aware of our preconceived notions. When considering “seniors,” we may think of our own grandparents. However, seniors today were young when our grandparents adapted to what was then the latest technology.

We don’t suddenly lose our tech skills at 65. We can expect more from seniors.

Seniors today also grew up in a different way than our grandparents did. We have more multi-generational families now, more mixed families, and more beautifully diverse family members under one roof.

What this means for senior living is leveraging technology is now more important than ever. Certainly we use technology for telehealth and other services, as well as for preventative healthcare for residents. Technology is one of Sodexo Seniors’ greatest assets. But once health and safety are properly ensured, we can go the extra mile and get back to delivering on the experience and creating special moments for seniors.

This leads to the technology piece and how many communities utilize tech to offer chef-led cooking lessons virtually during the pandemic. Folks can cook with a chef live on camera! We’re using technology to encourage socialization instead of isolation. And we’re using this unique time to remind ourselves how significant it is for our teams to provide individual attention to our residents.

Looking to the Future

It was a pleasure to share insights with these other leaders on the forum. What was laid to bare is how to move forward. What we continue to discuss is the evolution of our services, and the focus has been exacerbated by the pandemic. I look specifically at skilled nursing, where the pandemic hit hard. These skilled nursing facilities’ average age equates to about 50-year-old buildings. They weren’t built for a pandemic, with multiple beds per room. My wish is to update some of the older buildings to be equipped with single beds, private rooms with no pressure air to minimize the spread of a virus from resident to resident.

Early on in the pandemic we opened a COVID-only building at Pioneer Valley Recovery Center, as part of the Berkshire Health System in Massachusetts, constructed with only single bed units. The facility features low pressure air to prevent aerosol spread to keep residents and staff safe. Overall, we have spent this year learning big lessons and updating safety protocols. We continue to examine what senior housing should look like and how it should be constructed, so we can continue to provide for the care and comfort of residents.

December 02, 2020

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