“They’re coming for our space,” said Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design, and a Nexus Insights Fellow. Thomas is an accomplished leader of innovation and a global aging expert, advising startups, large corporations and investors. “Those of us in senior living and senior care need to lift our heads to see what’s coming. We need to see how we can be part of creating what’s ahead of us.”
Thomas recently joined Bob Kramer, Founder & Fellow at Nexus Insights and Co-founder and Strategic Advisor for NIC, for a conversation on Senior Living Foresight TV, entitled “Let’s Quit Talking to Ourselves: Moving the Conversation Outside Senior Living.”
The two discussed the increasing presence of investors and large corporations in the aging industry. Kramer and Thomas agreed that outside companies can be perceived as threats. But a wiser approach, they advise, is to see opportunities for productive partnerships.
“We must elevate our voice to be heard beyond our own walls,” said Thomas. “If we don’t want to partner with them, we may be replaced. So we need to look at what is not our domain expertise, and to identify gaps and consumer expectations that we’re not meeting.” Kramer agreed, observing that larger companies have greater logistical support, and greater expertise in certain domains. The key is to look for partners who can help close those gaps.
“We must elevate our voice to be heard beyond our own walls.” – Sarah Thomas
Thomas and Kramer discussed the importance of ageism, which is everywhere, and impacts everyone, and not just the older demographic. Thomas’s consulting work includes helping investors understand the marketplace, and to see the true needs and not the perceived needs “that are often misperceived,” and based on ageist ideas and stigmas. The two agreed that communities need to know their own value proposition, and to know how to communicate it, if they want to have a bigger seat at the table.
The discussion also touched on the value of universal design. “If we’re designing for all instead of designing for old, then we have beautiful designs that are also functional,” Thomas explained. Her experience includes work with the integration of robotics and fashion. The lesson for the aging industry, she suggested, is that beautiful designs help accelerate the adoption of new ideas, a philosophy that should be applied to senior living and senior care.
The two also talked out the potentially lasting impact of the pandemic on the industry. “The pandemic reinforced the idea that senior living is all about care,” Kramer said. “Ultimately we have to offer an experience that is aspirational, that is about a sense of belonging, about the joy of being alive, and not just making it through the day.”
See the whole conversation: