The idea of living in a long-term hotel seems kind of fun to many people—at least initially. You typically get weekly housekeeping service, WiFi, a small kitchen, the security of knowing there’s a manager on-site 24/7, and other amenities.
This could be a novelty for a brief time… until you start missing home. But would it surprise you to know that, for many people, including the elderly, a long-term hotel is home?
Younger people often stay in long-term hotels during life transitions, such as relocating to a new city for a job. But for most seniors, this is intended to be their last home—just as a retirement community would be.
Why Would a Senior Choose a Long-Term Hotel?
The answer is simple: why wouldn’t they?
Of course, it’s fine for seniors to live in long-term hotels as long as they—like anyone else—make regular payments and adhere to hotel policies.
Besides, we’d guess hotel staff appreciate having seniors. They tend to be pretty well-behaved guests and only very rarely have wild parties.
It’s The Amenities
If seniors weren’t living in an extended-stay hotel, they’d probably still be in their homes.
They’d be paying utility bills and property taxes, maybe even a mortgage. They’d also be cleaning, maintaining the property, and cooking for themselves.
There Are Precedents for Seniors Living in Hotels
Seniors have been living on cruise ships for some time now. For them, it’s a lower-cost way to take advantage of amenities like those provided by assisted living facilities.
Cruise Ship Living
Cruise ship amenities include all-you-can-eat meals, swimming pools, and nice exercise facilities. You’d have dining companions and entertainment.
You could take an occasional shore excursion. And, importantly, you’d even have access to ships’ doctors if needed.
Recently, a man in Texas made headlines and went viral on Facebook. What he did was share a plan to spend his upcoming retirement moving from one holiday inn to another to save money and see the world.
We assume he has enough money for travel from one place to the next. But what about health care? When interviewed about this, he said that if something were to go wrong, the hotel could call the ambulance or the undertaker for him.
This glib remark reminds us of something important, though. Even though the services of a long-term hotel are much the same as those of a retirement community, there is one difference:
The staff of extended-stay hotels are not trained, paid, or insured to handle people’s physical, mental, and logistical needs.
Unlike cruise ship staff, all these folks can do in an emergency is what they would do for any hotel client. That is to call 911 on their behalf and monitor them while waiting for that help to arrive.
So, What’s the Problem?
The problem is that so many seniors today lack the social and community support infrastructure needed to remain in their own homes. Or to go to retirement communities where their needs can be met by professionals if necessary.
It’s More Than a Small Problem.
As Jake Rossen of Mental Floss puts it, “The fact that a hotel chain can provide some of these services at a more reasonable cost than locations dedicated to assisted living is a rather alarming indictment of health care options for an aging population.”
For their part, retirement communities and their owners face some serious challenges. They must meet the needs of all the residents—most of whom face individual struggles with the aging process as well as the healthcare system.
So far, we’ve discussed how seniors prefer extended-stay hotels and cruise ships to more traditional forms of senior living. This lends important insight to those wishing to reform retirement communities.
A report from Capella Living Solutions called “Is Hospitality the Answer to Senior Living?” makes this point:
“While the goal of a resort or hotel is to create a consistently positive and happy experience, real-life happens in a senior living community…
People get sick and people die. When we try to sanitize and hide the unpleasant or frightening aspects of growing older, we diminish the wholeness of life.”
Wisdom from the Literature of Disability and Inclusion
Acknowledging and addressing this is hard for everyone involved. Perhaps using principles of diversity and inclusion as well as universal design would help. These ideas can shift the focus of senior living from “disabled” to “enabled and capable.”
On the one hand, senior living options (including aging at home) should provide as much assistance and accessible technology as needed. On the other hand, seniors need to “own” their life stage and the conditions that go with it.
Instead, many take up residence on cruise ships or set their sights on living in a hotel permanently. We wonder if extended-stay hotels might soon be revising their business model based on seniors’ fear of their own natural futures.
From legislators to retirement living CEOs, to seniors themselves, retirement stakeholders should note what’s been said here. They should use it to start larger, more inclusive discussions of the options seniors should have for the later stages of life.
Famous Last Words
For some healthy and financially solvent seniors, “hotel-hopping” is like what high school and college students think of as a gap year. Their goal is to see the world for a year or so and then return to a more stable lifestyle—wherever that may be.
Helping the elderly find communities to accept and integrate them is essential. So is providing them with the help and support they need. This should be a priority as ever more of them grapple with 21st-century aging.
We’re as concerned about this issue as anyone is. We’d welcome you to come stay at one of our fine hotels and experience the way we treat resident seniors as well as all our guests.