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10 anticipated psychosocial needs of baby boomers

December 21, 2011
by by Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD
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Consider these changes as LTC adapts to the next generation

We’ve heard the rumblings of the coming generation in the voices of our “young” residents in their 50s and 60s. It’s the younger residents who most often chafe at the restrictions of nursing home life, such as being unable to leave the facility unsupervised, or being cautioned to sit when they’d prefer to walk and take the risk of falling. As the baby boomers enter long-term care in greater numbers, those rumblings will grow louder, necessitating changes in how we deliver care. We’ll be more successful in making these changes if we anticipate the needs of the boomers, rather than merely reacting to their dissatisfaction.

Attending to their psychosocial needs will help your boomers find comfort, enjoyment and purpose in their later years, thereby creating vital, thriving organizations better able to adapt to changes in the long-term care landscape. Here’s what to look out for, and what you can do to help your organization and your residents.

1. Social connectedness

Internet access keeps boomer residents in touch with their social networks as well as the rest of the world. The next generation of residents will expect to be wired, so make your long-term care facility a hotspot now. To increase the value of this service, add adaptive equipment, along with training in how to use it, lockable laptop drawers, additional electrical outlets and policies on maintaining privacy in the nursing home.

2. Social differentiation

Say good-bye to “Goodnight, Irene” and hello to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “Soldier Boy”. The universal music of earlier generations shifted toward more individualized preferences in our new cohort, so plan on mixing your Motown with your Hendrix nights. Our boomers also had exposure to a wide variety of ethnic foods during their lifetimes. Consider polling residents to discover their preferences and offering an international option on your menu for greater variety and the opportunity for personal growth.

3. A platform for change

The activist generation doesn’t believe that “the doctor knows best.” This is a group of people used to fighting for their rights. Anticipate stronger resident councils looking to create concrete, positive change within your organization. Harnessing this power could be the best thing to ever happen to your community, because the residents will point to the changes you need to make to stay viable—the changes your line staff see but are afraid to tell you about. Give residents, and the staff members working with them, the tools to make it happen.

4. Consumer impulse

“‘Consumerism Clashes with Measly Personal Needs Allowance’—story at 11.” You can just envision the broadcast, right? It would go something like this:

“In today’s news, a growing mob of elders in nursing homes across the country took to the Internet in protest of the PNA, which hasn’t been increased since 1980. Here, a word from their leader, Ima Believer: ‘We want an inflation adjustment! We want to have a place to buy things ourselves instead of having to rely on the kindness of strangers! We want debit cards linked to our accounts here at the home!’”

5. Continuing education

Opportunities for education can boost self-esteem and also create social connections. Boomers will be more likely to expect activities that provide possibilities for personal growth, such as classes on popular topics (like psychology) or activities that allow them to contribute to society. Take, for example, a bake sale to raise money for charity.

6. The boomer is always right

The service economy has made its mark on our upcoming group of residents. If a request for toileting is met with the often-overheard staff response, “Again?!” the boomer resident is far more likely to head over to the office of the Director of Nursing than to respond with the shamed silence or quiet seething of our current cohort of residents. Train your staff now on customer service techniques, walk the floors on a regular basis listening to their interactions and then train your staff again. Model appropriate behavior by speaking to staff members in the manner in which you want them to talk to residents.

7. Sex




In my own work here in Australia in the ageing field - I often tell the story of a friend of mine who worked in a nursing home some 30 years ago - at afternoon tea everyone got a white tea with two sugars. I ask people to imagine baby boomers like me (early 50s) at morning tea in the future long term care facility I may live in - the conversation with my peers might go something like this:

" I would like a chai latte. I'll have a decaf latte. Could I have a long black? Have you got peppermint tea? I'd like a long machiatto and can you make sure it is hot. etc ete ...

A great article thanks Eleanor - I just don't think the aged care field in Australia is anywhere near ready for this new generation of residents.



Dr Ralph Hampson
Melbourne, Australia

Thanks, Dr. Hampson, for the image of that tea party! I'm certain having a coffee bar with wifi in the nursing home lobby would appeal to many potential boomers. (And how much worse could it be than the vending machines in terms of sugar and caffeine intake?)

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD

Yes, they are demanding, yes they are the "ME" generation. And because of their demands the healthcare system is in more danger that ever of going bankcrupt. A dose of rality is needed for them to understand that it is a nursing home, not the Hilton hotel.

I'm insulted to think that this is how you see baby boomers. Most boomers have reached an age where they volunteer more than almost any other age, besides helping with elderly parents and still working. We are not the "ME" generation. We are also healthier than many other segments of our society. Nursing homes don't mean "waiting-for-death" homes. They should expect dignity and respect in any environment, whether it's a nursing home or their daughters home. I surely hope you don't work in the health care field, you really have no idea what we are all about.