Every now and then, there is an article about the anticipated 'senior tsunami' that will be upon us in less than 20 years. Recently there was an article in the paper that anticipated that before long, 25% of our population will be senior. The first question that comes to mind when I read things like this is - how are we going to look after our elderly in the future? How will we manage care? And how will many afford care? Keeping in mind that with medical advances people will live longer, and hopefully healthier for longer, there may be less of an anticipated need for homes that provide care, and more of a need for 'ageing in place'. This, coupled with varying degrees of financial independence may indeed push the seniors industry as a whole, to look more at innovation in current settings and less at constructing buildings.
Lessons and ideas for Canada, can be learned by looking at other countries and what they are doing that works and doesn't work. In the Netherlands 'Apartments for Life' with mixed levels of care is commonplace. In Scandinavia there are smaller scale seniors communities that work well for their population. In the US there are things like congregate housing /seniors communities, neighbourhood based retirement programs, naturally occurring retirement communities and senior co-housing (which is starting to occur a bit in Canada as well). There are things like Campuses of Care popping up in various areas where there is a range of care levels all in one setting. And there are a few universities that are building retirement settings on their campuses for seniors who wish to continue learning. We are hearing about new kinds of memory care which offer innovative ways to care for people with memory problems. And lately I have read several articles about advances in technology which allow for people to stay in their homes with the assistance of technology that alerts people off site if there are problems. Clearly there will be more research and technology aimed at seniors in the future which looks at maximizing independence in a cost effective way. We are also seeing new fields of training - in the US there are now 'Geriatric Care Managers' and 'Certified Ageing in Place Specialists'. Active Ageing is becoming a common term and even the World Health Organization has created a definition for it.
The next 20 years will be a time of substantial growth for the 'senior care industry' as it is forced to look at different ways to provide care to our elderly. It may also be a time in which our governments are forced to look at pension and health care reform as it learns to cope with the ageing population and limited resources. Gaps in service will need to be addressed as will changes to the infrastructure of of communities to accommodate the growing number of seniors. Without doubt we are entering a time of change and challenge. The seniors of tomorrow will be the ones who will inspire us to be innovative and creative.