To start with Shakespeare, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In the quickening reality of the population shift to having more seniors than school children, there is a push to market and redefine the concept of aging in place. That is the term I started out with over 4 years ago in my own search for how do I secure an independent future after retirement. Is everyone over the age of 60 ready to actively engage in doing the same? Maybe-maybe not.
It is this reluctance on the part of the age wave baby boomers that has been frustrating the senior housing industry. Almost 90% of that age cohort is not romping off to their planned communities and facilities. It is baffling to some community leaders who have faced rejection when doing outreach to more isolated rural areas. Despite the continued proliferation of products and services for the silver haired consumer, entrepreneurs are already weary and turning their energies to the millennial slice of the population.
Part of the strategy seems to be not to call aging – aging and not to call seniors-seniors. Boomers are supposed to be in this deep seated denial of their own final maturity and thus avoiding any real planning. For a few twists and turns of marketing savvy, let me take you on a tour of the alternative ways to approaching older consumers. On the home builders site the consensus is that it should be called Thriving in Place. Now there is a new certification called Living in Place for occupational and physical therapists to help people figure out how to be safer and more comfortable in their homes. Other variations of the positive message that at least use the word aging are Aging in Style and Age Well in Place. The most unique is Optimum Aging Portal (beam me up Scotty!)
Disguising that this is really about getting older is kind of futile. Yes, our society has many negative stereotypes and ageism is real. Maybe this newest cohort of eligible for senior discount participants will do things somewhat differently. One of the reasons I started this quest to be future forward about aging was reading how aging in place was a misbegotten farce, that people were really going to just rot in place if they were encouraged to stay at home.
Yes, I know there is a resistance to dealing with what has not happened yet. Fortunately for many boomers as a statistical whole they are healthier and more active and more knowledgeable about diet exercise and can work longer and use those magical electronic devices to communicate. So just maybe it does not feel like aging? Planning is often complicated by being in a holding pattern of what other relatives are doing or you may still be working and do not know what the retirement budget will cover.
When I decided on Ways to Stay as the name for my website, I had a simple thought in mind – there are many factors that go into staying at home as you age. Pushing all the buzz words aside, I believe Staying Put where you want to, means figuring out what you have to do to make that a good bet. Aging with dignity and grace should not be beyond our communal capacity no matter what you call it.