Meeting the Demands of a Graying America

By Patterson, Connie J. | Journal of Property Management, January-February 1990 | Go to article overview

Meeting the Demands of a Graying America


Patterson, Connie J., Journal of Property Management


Meeting the DEmands of a Graying America What makes a managing senior housing so different from managing regular apartment communities? As the graying of America accelerates, more and more management companies will have to ponder and respond to this question. They will have to formulate and implement the procedures necessary to manage such properties as owners of senior housing properties turn to management companies.

Senior citizen housing is a continuum of living situations, from independent, to assisted, to dependent living. Communities addressing each or all of these phases are being developed, creating a need for skilled property management companies to oversee the facilities. And as our population continues to gray--by the year 2030, nearly one in five Americans will be over 65 years old--this demand can only continue to grow.

Managing a senior housing facility requires a more active and involved role on the part of the management company. The management team must also become more interested in the needs and interests of the residents, taking into consideration the financial, physical, and social concerns of the senior citizen.

To address the management techniques employed at independent living properties, a management company can divide its responsibilities into three areas: physical, social, and financial.

Physical

The smallest maintenance details in housing for the elderly make a difference between safety and injury. For instance, proper lighting of stairwells, hallways, and entrasnces is essential to prevent residents from falling and to protect them from potential crimes. Inspections for burned out light bulbs should be carried out on a more frequent basis than in regular housing, and the areas should be periodically checked to ensure that enough light exists for safe passage.

All lighting for public areas should not be provided by overhead fluorescent bulbs, however. Some warmer light should be included from lamps to give a more homey atmosphere, thus encouraging socializing between residents.

Another area of safety concern is tripping. Maintenance personnel should be trained to look for seams in the carpet that may be separating, for carpet that i sloose or bubbled, for door sills that may have loosened, for loose carpet tacks or raised flooring nails, and for large cracks in outside walkways. While these items are certainly standard checkpoints, they should be inspected on a more frequent basis to prevent injuries to the elderly from trips and falls.

Hot water heaters should be monitored closely. Installing a safety valve on hot water heaters keeps the temperature below scalding point, protecting residents from burns. This will also prevent bath water from reaching temperatures that are harmful to skin which has become less resilient.

Common areas will likely need to be kept warmer in the winter. Heating and cooling systems must also be monitored closely to control costs.

The resident manager and maintenance personnel are instrumental in keeping the physical structure safe and barrier free. Their constant attention to details will assure residents that their safety is a first priority, giving them a sense of security.

Developing a cheerful atmosphere and tone in the common areas of the building is also an important aspect of the senior housing environment. Using bright colors will not only make common areas more visible, but it will add life to the atmosphere. By encouraging a more vivid tone for common areas, management encourages residents to meet and socialize in this upbeat space. This important occurrence highlights what is likely to be the most unusual aspect of managing senior housing--support and development of social nd education programs.

Social

Program development not only enhances the lifestyle of the residents in senior housing, it offers a necessary service.

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