In this episode, Wanda Moen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Arbor Company, joins us to talk about changing the perception of senior living of yesterday vs. senior living today, and clear up some common misconceptions.

Video Transcript

- Hello, everyone, good to see you. And for those of you joining us via podcast, thank you for listening. My name is Melissa, and I have the lovely Wanda Moen joining me today to discuss the differences between senior living in the past and what senior living actually is today. Hi, Wanda. How are you?

- Hi, Melissa, I'm good. How are you?

- I'm doing fantastic. I'm so thrilled that you could join us here. You know, we've been speaking with Arbor communities, staff, residents, to sort of build up this video database of knowledge for our viewers, all about senior living. And I love our topic today. I think many people have this idea of what senior living is until they actually step into a senior living community today. We will have that conversation, but first, Wanda, tell us a little bit about yourself, your job at The Arbor Company, and your journey into senior living.

- Well, I have the great pleasure of working with The Arbor Company on our sales and marketing efforts and really changing the perception of what people think senior living is. I think we still have the perception of what it used to be years ago the nursing home type. And my journey in senior living actually started when I was 10 years of age. My parents and aunts and uncles had a band that they called The Mona Sodas. and The Mona Sodas went to different independent living facilities and performed. And so my first interactions, really with senior living, were visiting my grandparents and performing at different independent livings. At 14, you know, my parents really needed some help and I needed to go to work, and so they signed a release form and I became a housekeeper at a skilled facility. And fast-forward then, I got my CNAs license and worked as a CNA. Working, though, as a 14-year-old in a skilled facility, I loved taking my breaks on the fourth floor. The fourth floor was where our residents that were living with dementia lived. And at 14, I got to pretend, right? And I got to hang out with the residents. One special lady, you know, one day it could be, I was her sister, the next day I was her best friend. It was always a lot of fun. And so my senior living journey started very early in life. However, I did end up getting out of senior living and going into multifamily, and my grandmother got very ill and was hospitalized and I needed to go start looking again at senior living. And what I realized when I walked around is that my grandmother was full of life and she needed some place that was full of life. And I wasn't seeing that, I was seeing more of that nursing home type so many years ago. And I thought right then and there, I need to get out of multifamily housing and I needed to go to work in senior housing 'cause it could be so much more than what it really is. And so that was 27 plus years ago, and it has really evolved over time. It's not the typical nursing home that really think it is.

- And that's why we thought you might be the perfect person for this conversation, and you are. And I can't wait to hear your thoughts about this. So, you know, as you kind of alluded to, unless you really have a family member who lives in a senior living community or you've been inside a senior living community recently, you probably don't give a lot of thought to senior living, and who does?

- Right, who wakes up and says, I'm gonna go look at senior living today?

- Exactly. So for people maybe in that category, what are some of the common misconceptions that you hear or that people tend to have about senior living?

- Well, I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to have some high acuity of care, like you need to be bedridden before you go into senior living. A lot of people start looking at independent living because they start to need a little helping hand. Independent living communities today are gorgeous, they're like resorts. You need to look at it more like that versus it's someplace you go to get assistance. You wanna go into an independent living community when you can enjoy the pool and you can enjoy outings and happy hours and exercise gyms that are just extraordinary. And assisted livings are not for folks that have a high acuity of care or have memory loss, assisted livings are when you start to need some help. These communities are newly designed and trendy and state-of-the-art communities that if you need a helping hand, that's where you go and you still get to enjoy a fabulous lifestyle, where you still have wonderful engagement programs, lifelong learning programs. It used to be that retirement. You retired and you golfed and you did all that. We're working longer and longer these days, and retirement's becoming an older and older and older age. You know, we're not retiring until well into our 70s, and you wanna enjoy life. So the communities are designed that you're not retiring to stop living, you're retiring to start living. You're retiring because you wanna take on another fun chapter of life. You wanna learn a language, you wanna travel to a foreign country, and you don't want to be bound by a home or responsibilities that a home offers. So independent living can be a fabulous thing for those that are newly retired and looking for their next great adventure. And assisted livings are gorgeous communities these days. They have pubs, you know? They have workout facilities in them. The focus is on living. You know, you might have some challenges, and that's okay, we're here to help you with those challenges but the focus is still on what do you want to do in life?

- Yeah. Yeah, and I mean, you really hit the nail on the head answering what was my next question, which is to just kind of if you can paint a picture of the landscape of what senior living is now, and I think you've done a fabulous job with that. So when we talk about the different types of care, this is where it can get a little confusing because 20, 30 years ago you had one level of care, either you lived in a home and you had someone come in and help you or you were in a nursing home. So what are the different types of options that are out there for people today?

- Yep, so like I said, there are independent living communities, and there are different types of independent living communities. Some have cottages, homes, they're gated communities, some have apartment buildings, but they're really about the amenities and the lifestyle that they offer. And so when looking at an independent living, you should be the person that is retired or maybe you're still working somewhat part-time, but you're starting to really enjoy life and you wanna take on that next big adventure and you don't want the responsibility is of a home. And you want a chef and you want a housekeeper and you want a landscaper and you want a pool person, that's really what an independent lifestyle is about. Assisted living, you need a little helping hand. You're still full of life and you still got a lot of living to do, but you need a helping hand, you need somebody to help with medications, you need somebody to help with meals, you need someone to help you with your activities of daily living. And it's interesting because we use acronyms a lot in senior living and activities of daily living are things that we all take for granted. It's dressing, it's bathing, it's brushing your teeth, it's combing her hair, it's making dinners, it's eating, that's what an assisted living is for. You still have a lot to offer in life when living in assisted living, and there's still things that you want to do. And the job is for the staff to help you do those things. You know, whether it's you wanna still host parties, you can still host them, you just have a team of people to help you. If you wanna travel, there's a team there and we can help find people to help you travel. It's about having the assistance. And there are specialized memory care communities as well. And there are communities that offer the full continuum of care. The IL, which is the independent living, the assisted living, and the memory care. And memory care is for those that are really cognitively impaired. They're living with memory loss and they need a helping hand there to help guide them through their days. And at The Arbor Company, we have a program which is called the Bridges Neighborhood, which is for folks that have early memory loss during the early stages of their memory loss. And they're still living life fully and they don't need a secured neighborhood. They can still take advantages of all, everything a community offers, but they need people to help guide them and remind them and point them in the right direction, and we do offer that here at The Arbor Company.

- A lot of different options there. So Wanda, what are some ways that The Arbor Company has moved the goalpost forward in terms of taking resident feedback and implementing those ideas in building new communities or perhaps renovating current and existing communities?

- So, that is actually a great question. And one of the things that we do at The Arbor Company is always surveys. We're serving staff, we're surveying residents, and we're serving family members. And we're asking them, what do you like? What do you dislike? What do we do well? What do we need improvement on? And it just doesn't fall on deaf ears. We take that information back to our teams and we work harder to do a better job at what people are looking for these days. We also share that information with the developers. So when we're asked to come and be a part of a project, we do get some insight into, well, this is what we're seeing that the current senior is looking for. And if you think about the current communities that are being built and the current new Arbor communities that do have the pubs, and they do have the fast Wi-Fi in them, they do have full physical fitness centers. Because as we, the baby boomers and the next generation, they are looking about fitness, right? We're looking at being more proactive on our health. So what are we putting in our communities that help you be more proactive on your wellness? So I think that the information that we get back, we've done focus groups with residents in the past, really getting their insight for things, but we just don't let that information fall on deaf ears, we share it with our developers and our partners, so that each community that we build and that we step foot into and put the first resident in there, really speaks to what people are looking for in that marketplace, it speaks to who they are. You will walk into an Arbor community in New Jersey, or you can walk in one in Florida or here in Chicago where I happen to be this week and they don't look the same. They don't look the same because they're built to what the community that they're in is looking for.

- Excellent. And I guess, finally, to wrap it up, everything you said can now be dizzying, so we go from maybe having just the one option to many options, and I know that can make it a little harder for people to decide what's going to be right for them. So what would you say to someone who says, "Well, when I do this, I wanna do it once?" Is there a place for me if I am independent and I might need a little care later, can I move one place, one time?

- Absolutely. At The Arbor Company, you can live in any of the assisted living communities. In fact, we've kind of stopped labeling communities, we've been calling them senior living communities, right? Because at the end of the day, why put a label on somebody? We're not in a society of labeling anymore. And so we call them senior living communities because a community should be able to meet you wherever you are in life. So you can move into one of our senior living communities, completely independent, and you can live there with no care services added on, and you can age in the place. And let's say, you never require services, and you know, good for you, but you still get to take advantages of all the services that the community does offer. And let's say, you do age and you start to need some services, those services can come on and be added to the apartment that you're currently living in. And majority of the communities do have a memory care neighborhood that is secured. So should you need that secure environment, you're not leaving the community and going someplace else, you're staying with the family that you've grown to know and love in this community that provides you care, and your family becomes a part of our family as well. And so you're just moving into a different neighborhood, but you're still seeing the same people.

- I think that is so important. We had a woman on our webinar just the other day, who said, you know, she's thinking about moving her mom out of the current senior living community she's in to find another. And she says, "It's just so traumatic." The thought of moving her mom and her mom moving and leaving what she knows and her friends. So it is wonderful to be able to hear that there are so many options out there for literally everyone.

- Everyone.

- Yeah. We thank you so much for helping our viewers and our listeners paint a little different picture, and maybe more accurate picture, of what senior living is like today. Thank you.

- Thank you, Melissa.

- Well, if you enjoyed this interview with Wanda, head on over to for more of our video content all about senior living, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As always, thank you for watching Senior Living Live. Have a great day, everybody.

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