Snowbirds in Florida

February 5, 2013
1 Comments

I just returned from a two-week vacation in the Florida Keys, which I happily shared with at least a dozen senior citizens. For all you CCRCs, assisted living organizations and skilled nursing facilities out there: If you’re still doing business under the 1980s demographic assumptions of “older Americans,” you may be in for a big shock.

Two of the seniors I shared a living space with were of the parental stripe—who graciously allowed me to bunk in at their seasonal rental home. These “seniors” –both of whom have age 70 surrounded—are healthy, robust, active and blessed with bodies that look more like 60. They rose well before me each morning, walked the dogs and even went fishing—all before I’d stumbled to the kitchen coffee maker.

A group of their local “seasonal renter” friends (several over the age of 70, the rest over 50) joined us for dinner one night, and the conversation was fascinating. No one talked about recent arthritis flare-ups or hip replacements or quarts of daily medications.  And absolutely no one mentioned anything about a recent colonoscopy, humorously hailed as one of the proverbial “senior topics.”

Instead, they chatted about Skyping with their grandchildren, downloading their prized fishing photos to the local fishermen’s brag-blog, and fine-tuning the GPS devices on their fishing boats. I didn’t hear any complaints about the effects of Florida’s humidity on the knee joints, but they did grumble a lot when the WiFi Internet accessibility offered by their renters didn’t work as promised.

Medicare did surface occasionally during the conversation, but mainly in relation to their experienced hassles with billing for Medicare-covered services through their own doctors and specialists.

Meanwhile, back at our own rental house: One senior citizen is miffed that the large flat-screen TV has maybe nine viable channels—so unlike his accustomed 300+-channel home life. The other senior is sitting on our sunny Florida porch deeply ensconced in her iPad screen, telling everyone on Facebook that she's beaten my high score in the online “Candy Crush Saga” game.

A word to the wise: The folks I spent my vacation with are already in their 70s now. Just wait til you see the facility demands (and technology requirements) of the baby boomers, who are soon to be on your doorsteps. Or who may NOT be knocking, depending on what you can offer.

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Pamela, Your observations

Pamela,

Your observations about the baby boomers are right on point. Adoption of technology is certainly one important aspect of boomer life that providers will need to address. In addition, issues such as aging in place, mobile health, wellness and telehealth are all shaping the future of long term care. While our industry is struggling with reimbursement and regulatory challenges, we also must come to grips with a consumer base that has very different attitudes and values than what we knew 30 years ago. As such, providers will need to evolve, both through design and operations, to meet those changing needs.

It's an exciting (and scary) time for long term care providers. But, for those of us who have been around for a long time, we also know that the industry is resilient and will rise to the challenge.

Thanks for your post.