‘21st century senior living is not dull foster care’

‘21st century senior living is not dull foster care’

Thai and international experts on modern mode of healthy, independent lifestyle for the elderly

A stereotypical image of an adult foster care is one of dull, quiet buildings, one bed after another with residents or ‘patients’ mostly inactive, immobile, or even bedridden. This might pose real challenges for some people even if they would benefit from having their physical and medical needs met. Amid the aging of many world societies, the solution is a privately-managed senior care facility that emphasises living in an independent and healthy way, as normal as possible.

Dr. Nart Fongsmut, M.D., a senior care and management expert with over 20 years of experience and Founder of LivWell Living Co., Ltd., says, “Independence is essential for the elderly. Even if they have some physically compromised capabilities, independence or self-reliance will prevent them from thinking of themselves as their children’s burden.

“A good senior living facility should aim to keep its residents independent and healthy as long as possible,” she stresses. “This means they can still do daily activities, contribute to society, and have dignity. In addition, wellness has to be at the forefront of care. For instance, at Naya Residences, we monitor every resident even before they develop health issues, allowing us to take preventive steps and prolong good quality of life for them as much as possible.”

Jeramy Ragsdale, Founder and CEO, Thrive Senior Living, a renowned developer and operator of senior living communities in the US and UK, shares that, “When their physical needs change and they are not as mobile, the need for social connections in everyday life can be left unmet. The role of a senior living facility is to curate an environment that allows for interaction and communication while their physical demands are still being well taken care of.”

“Furthermore, we have found that the desires of seniors are shockingly similar to those of younger adults. Social connectivity, great food and wellness are key drivers in long-term health and happiness. However, younger adults are more willing to experience these things ‘a-la-carte,’ meaning that their social network, dining experiences, and wellness activities may not necessarily all be a part of their home environment. Meanwhile, for older adults, a lifestyle where you can have all of that where you live might be preferable.”

As Thrive Senior Living is replicating its successful model of senior living from the U.S. to new regions, including Thailand, Mr. Ragsdale discovers universal truth about the care of elderly people.

“Different cultural contexts do exist in details, but the human core desire to be independent and socially connected is all the same. Besides, I have witnessed relationships between seniors and their adult children improved because they can now fully be just a son or daughter instead of solely a caregiver,” he says.

As Thailand is entering an aging society, it is estimated that a million people will become senior citizens (aged above 60) per year for the next 20 years. Therefore, Dr. Nart  thinks it is important for the pre-retirement population of 40-59 years old to prepare for their life after retirement.

“Three aspects have to be covered before you enter retirement, namely physical and mental health, savings and finances, and social network or a circle of friends to socialise with,” she says.

It is noteworthy that after more than 20 years in the field, Dr. Nart  starts to see an emerging trend: “Before, most of the residents were single individuals. Now, a lot of adult children come to us with their parents because they are seeking the best care for their parents that also allows them to work. Some have told they finally can have a peace of mind as their parents are in good hands. A good senior living facility can serve every member of the family. Some of our units feature a guest room for family to visit. Most importantly, good communication between relatives and the care centre is of paramount significance, so they don’t have to worry.”

Dr. Nart reiterates the importance of active social life and environment: “Loneliness is the disease of the aged. Seniors who live at home may hire a 24/7 nurse, but that’s only half the picture. Social connectivity is vital to a good life. For instance, at Naya Residences, residents can wake up to a gorgeous riverfront environment, practice yoga in the morning, swim in the afternoon, and dine with your friends in the evening. Recently, we even hosted a birthday party with everyone joining. This kind of experience is beyond medical concern and cannot be replicated at home. And when you add in daily wellness monitoring and the around-the-clock availability of care and assistance when it’s needed, that lifestyle is truly the best possible option.”

Naya Residences managed by LivWell is a joint project between LivWell Living and Thrive Senior Living that prides itself in serving a socially connected lifestyle with access to excellent care and wellness assistance for older adults.

Mr. Ragsdale speaks of the collaboration: “We have had an interest in Southeast Asia and believed that there is a lack of modern, thoughtfully designed, and well-established senior living in the market. Thailand is one of the most super-aged countries in the world, with over 7.5 million adults over 65. With the right trainers and processes, the Thai market could become a regional leader in senior living residential care. Once we were introduced to the LivWell team, we were immediately impressed with the innovative approach to wellness and the impressive location and buildings.”

He also praises the facility along the Chao Phraya riverbank: “The onsite resources such as world-class dining, fitness centre, and riverfront views are best-in-class, and now are combined with a proprietary wellness program that allows residents to track key metrics in their health, hopefully catch potential issues early, and allow their physician to intervene. Other offerings in the current market seem to focus more on either lifestyle or care, but none offer the unique blend of lifestyle, wellness, and care that Naya Residences does.”

Another unique benefit of Naya Residences is its incredibly flexible lease structures. It offers leases of a year or less to accommodate whatever conditions. There’s also a payback policy for certain cases. Flexibility supports a need to move, for example, in the case of expats. The concept of shorter-term leases is becoming more accepted and popular now Thais, and Naya Residences is really pioneering in this area.

Dr. Nart  believes that a well-established international partner will help elevate the senior living industry in Thailand and enhance Thai seniors’ wellbeing.

“Thrive Senior Living has worked with our team to assess care standards, wellness programs, rate structures, sales, marketing, and other areas, benchmarking these against standards in the US and the UK. We are also overseeing many new locations, such as Phuket, Hua Hin, and Chon Buri which are an attractive retirement destination for foreigners in Thailand. After crystallising our ideas, what we have learned will definitely be carried over to other projects in the future. I must add that the timing is absolutely perfect to meet the increasing demands.”

She concludes with a hinge of optimism: “I started Naya Residences because I wanted to take care of my mom. A property project for senior living is a form of social enterprise because we’re not seeking the highest profit. It’s a solution for the family that is done from the heart and is much needed in the current society.”

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