A Seismic Shift Is Imminent: Are You Ready?

Published on : 2/24/23
  • The senior living industry promises a maintenance-free lifestyle filled with hospitality, chef-prepared meals, security, structured social and wellness activities, medical attention and other support services that is unencumbered with excessive chores and other worries. With its current living models, more than 90% of the residents in senior living communities are non-Hispanic White Americans with healthy financial resources. But a significant population shift is underway: Is your senior living community prepared for it?


    The Silver Tsunami = A Golden Opportunity

    The United States is aging at an unprecedented rate.

    The population of Americans age 65 and older has increased by nearly 40% since 2009, totaling around 56 million. That figure is expected to increase to approximately 95 million by the year 2060.

    The precipitous rise in older adults combined with a significant decline in the U.S. fertility rate means that by the year 2034, there will likely be more older adults than children for the first time in U.S. history. This seems like a golden opportunity for senior living communities to increase their resident occupancies. But this can only occur if the senior living industry makes changes to embrace the expanding diversity of the incoming senior populace.

    According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, the share of older adults who identify as Hispanic, non-White, or both is expected to increase by more than 100% by 2040, compared to a 26% increase in non-Hispanic White older adults. Surveys indicate that many members of these diverse groups are accustomed to living their lives according to their identities and preferences, and as they age, they will want to live in communities where they feel safe, comfortable and free to be themselves. For this reason, implementing changes to diversify the senior living industry would be good for business. But how can this be accomplished?


    Becoming More Inclusive

    One way to diversify the residency at senior living communities is to create developments, programs and lifestyle activities that are more inclusive. A few senior living planners and operators are already working on this. For example, dozens of senior living and care options are being planned and developed for aging and retiring individuals that are underrepresented in established senior living communities. A former COO of a senior living company recently established a firm with the goal of improving diversity and inclusivity in senior living arrangements while also increasing their affordability. And intergenerational communities are being designed to accommodate both low-income older adults and low-income college students.


    Another meaningful way to make the senior living industry more inclusive is to diversify the leadership at senior living communities. Statistics indicate that the ranks of hourly wage frontline workers are diverse in senior living communities, but within their leadership and governance, diversity is not as prevalent. Organizations with diverse leaders are better equipped to attract a diverse audience, and Sodexo demonstrates this well.


    DE&I From the Top Down

    Sodexo is committed to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of the organization. The company has worked to ensure that its executive and senior leaders as well as its managers and frontline workers reflect the cultural diversity of communities, clients and consumers. In addition, Sodexo provides networking, learning and development opportunities that embrace and mentor the diversity of its employees. Every client, every consumer and every Sodexo job applicant can look at the diversity of Sodexo’s leadership and the rest of its workforce and know that the company doesn’t just talk about diversity and inclusion; Sodexo exemplifies it. 


    As the senior living industry considers strategies to navigate changes in senior demographics, it is important to emphasize that diversity and inclusion recognize and embrace the inherent and acquired characteristics that define every individual. Providing older adults with senior living options that are inclusive and create a sense of belonging will not be simple, but with the seismic population shift underway, it’s the wise thing to do.