As the world adapts to the pandemic era, the respondents to a new survey from the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA) believe that in this 21st century, updated approaches that recognize the longer health spans, longer work lives and active lifestyles of older adults are the future. The guiding force directing the renewal is wellness, which encompasses all areas of a person’s life, as an integrated whole.
To assist organizations with housing, services and programs aimed at adults about 60 years and older, ICAA surveyed 459 members and associates to take the temperature of industry leadership and staff members. The ICAA State of the Wellness Industry 2022 report details the status of wellness culture, wellness programs, priorities, budgets and staffing, plans for remodeling and building, and public access to facilities. Among the brick-and-mortar organizations included in the ICAA State of the Wellness Industry 2022 report, most (68%) represent senior living and care organizations, followed by community-based active adult “seniors” centers and agencies (14%) and businesses with older adults participants (medical fitness, health clubs and studios).
“Wellness is defined by ICAA as ‘our ability to understand, accept and act upon our identity and capacity to lead a purpose-filled and engaged life…so we can embrace our potential to pursue and optimize life’s possibilities,’” said Colin Milner, CEO of International Council on Active Aging. “All the department heads and staff members can apply that philosophy to their work. Shouldn’t each individual’s purpose-filled and engaged life be the goal for everyone working at an organization with services for older adults?”
Key points emerged across the wide-ranging ICAA State of the Wellness Industry 2022 survey:
- Wellness, meaning the influences on all areas of a person’s life, is an elevated priority among many organizations. Among all respondents, 81% believe executives give wellness a high or essential priority in 2022.
- In organizations where executives give wellness a high or essential priority, onsite lifestyle programs, recruiting and retaining staff members, onsite food service/dining and technology or technology infrastructure are being emphasized.
- A significant commitment to wellness is forecast to shift industry models in senior living. Among 242 senior living and care organizations, 61% of respondents believe that by 2025 the community will be based in a wellness lifestyle with options for care. This belief is more common among those who work with independent older adults, as opposed to people working with older adults in a nursing environment, where a community based in care with options for wellness was stated. (The term “senior living” includes continuing care/life plan and independent living communities, and assisted living or memory care, many with nursing services.)
- The shift towards a wellness model is supported by the fact that many people (53%) who answered the survey believe that the organization where they work is based in a culture of wellness, which involves all leaders, staff members and the older adults they serve in providing services and experiences that enable clients, residents and members to participate in life-affirming choices.
- Recruiting and staffing wellness positions, along with all others, is a major challenge. Although some organizations have budgeted for additional staff members, it has been difficult for fill open positions with qualified candidates.
- In-person programs and services have resumed, and a hybrid format of in-person and virtual presentations is projected. Currently, 69% of wellness lifestyle programs are being delivered in-person across all the organizations. Some respondents said that a limited number of programs are virtual (38%) or there is a 50/50 mix of in-person and virtual programs (14%).
- When considering the people they observed at their workplaces, respondents said about 71% of older adults attend indoor programs; 58% attend outdoor programs. Those who attend in-person may also join virtual wellness programs at home (46%) or with others in a public space or recreation center (36%).
- Wellness staff members plan to feature emotional, social and spiritual wellness in their programs, noting that the pandemic showed how important these are.
- Technology will be an important integration into programs, services and facilities. Organizational plans for 2022-2023 are to add technology infrastructure and capabilities to current buildings (62%), redesign/remodel current public rooms (40%) and design and build new buildings (34%) or add new additions to existing buildings (25%).
“ICAA issued a Call to Action early in 2021 to ‘reclaim health and well-being for older people by integrating wellness throughout all organizational strategies and operations,’” said Colin Milner, CEO of International Council on Active Aging. This survey shows that the people in senior living and active-adult organizations are emerging from the pandemic crises and, while keeping to all safety measures, are motivated to help older adults renew the quality of their lives through wellness.”
While there are many issues to contend with, professionals who work for older adults are committed to maintaining and improving the services and lifestyle they offer. The philosophy of wellness, framed by seven dimensions, is a map to guide their purpose.
The ICAA State of the Wellness Industry 2022 report is available on the ICAA website under Research, Report.
About the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) ICAA is a professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry and supports professionals who aspire to develop wellness cultures for adults over 50. This support includes creating wellness environments, programs and services. The association is focused on active aging—an approach to aging that helps older adults live life as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness—and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies.