Recently I’ve observed more prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, life plan communities) who are asking about the political affiliations of the resident population as part of the research process. And just this past week, I received a thought-provoking email from a resident of a CCRC. She was inquiring if I knew of any CCRCs in the country without people of a certain political affiliation. She cited the “mean-spirited” residents of her current community, and she professes to be “willing to move anywhere in the nation” to find a more like-minded community.
The impact on quality of life
There’s no denying that our nation is very polarized right now, with people on both ends of the political spectrum often feeling attacked or judged by those who disagree with them. Indeed, last week’s elections were evidence of the shift that is occurring in many states and regions. But this CCRC resident’s email really got me thinking about how these stark political divisions can impact quality of life and could ultimately be damaging to the senior living industry, just as it will be damaging to our country if it doesn’t change.
Think of it: A prospective resident makes the decision that a CCRC is the right senior living option for them. They visit a community, and all of the boxes are checked off: It is in the location they want, it has the housing choices they desire, it offers the amenities they seek, is well-managed, and so forth. But along the way, the prospective resident learns that the current residents, in general, have strongly held political beliefs that are in opposition to the prospect’s views. They cross the CCRC off of their list as a result out of fear that they may be judged or even ostracized.
Or perhaps a worse scenario is what the woman who emailed me has run into. She chose a CCRC, paid the entry fee, moved in, and now has come to realize that the other residents do not share her political beliefs. And further, they are being “mean-spirited” when it comes to voicing their opinions, making her feel personally attacked to the point that she wants to move.
>> Related: What If I Change My Mind About Moving to a CCRC?
The politics of senior living
There are countless examples today of ways political divisions are doing more harm than good in our country. And it is worth considering how such divisiveness might have a negative effect on the senior living industry. As we see the growing popularity of affinity retirement communities, it isn’t unrealistic to imagine that we may see more political ideologies driving seniors’ preferences.
The fact is that the United States is an increasingly diverse nation. In any given community, there are people of different races, faiths, sexual orientations, and political views. We all must find ways to accept our neighbors’ differences. This goes for people living in age-qualified communities as well. If we fail to do this, the senior living industry as a whole may be headed for trouble, and our nation may find itself on a similarly fraught path.