Serving the unique individuals who live in senior communities is so much of the reason this industry is incredible. But some voices do not get amplified as much as others, and we need to talk about that.
You may wonder why it’s so important to amplify these voices in senior living.
We cannot promise the best care without first understanding and accepting the unique needs, preferences and history of diverse older adults. Only when we share, celebrate and acknowledge the differences of our residents can we truly provide person-centered care.
In diverse communities, the access to long term care has increased over the last several decades, creating a great opportunity to develop multicultural programming and more. That being said, some communities typically have more varied access to care that fits their specific preferences, budgets and needs according to federal nursing home assessment data (Feng, et al.). If all communities made the choice to start taking small steps to a more inclusive environment, we could flip the script.
Here are some of those small ways we can create more diverse senior living communities that serves our residents as best we can.
Promote Diverse Elder Voices and Stories
We all love a good story. Seniors have just about the best ones.
There are some stories that are told more loudly while others — such as those from communities of color, LGBTQ+, and older adults living with “taboo” illnesses like HIV or AIDS — are not so quick to be told.
These stories matter as much as any others, and we can do more to uplift them. Elevating the stories of diverse older adults may improve the negative emotional impact that come with not feeling like one “belongs.” One reason to be concerned about telling diverse elders’ stories is the emotional impact when humans don’t feel a sense of belonging.
The need-to-belong theory is a well-studied concept in psychology that identifies belonging in social groups and established relationships as a fundamental human need. A recent American Psychological Association (APA) report on this theory states, “Studies of rejection show that thwarting the need to belong produces drastic and sometimes puzzling effects, including increases in aggression and self-destructive acts, and decreases in helpfulness, cooperation, self-control, and intelligent thought” (Baumeister).
This impact on behavior is particularly concerning for diverse older adults and their overall wellness. By encouraging residents to be their whole selves and by facilitating relationships through storytelling, we can start on the road to every individual feeling accepted in our diverse communities.