Emerging Wellness Trends. Whole-person Wellness — Wellness Trends in Senior Housing and Programming.  Empathy Not sympathy.

Emerging Wellness Trends

In our discussion with Cee Cee Hodgson of c.c. hodgson architectural group, a national expert on designing for wellness, we asked about emerging wellness trends in senior housing. She challenges us to be inspired by empathy, not sympathy in designing the total resident experience in senior housing.

Her responses reflect her overall philosophy and experience.

  • “First of all, define what wellness is for yourself,” says Cee Cee.

Wellness is fundamentally an individual experience and not a one-size fits all solution. This hints at the need to design for a community of users with different and not necessarily identical needs.

“Beyond that is affiliation and association. The days of being able to do everything yourself [as a CCRC] and excel at all of it is impossible.  So whether it is university affiliation, organizations like Masterpiece [Living] or Planetree, or community affiliations like YMCA. . . .” you can partner with experts to best deliver wellness as self-defined by each resident.

wellness trends

Cee Cee Hodgson with c.c. hodgson architectural group. National expert on designing for wellness

“Those are just simple examples, but that goes into that whole comment you made in one of your questions about the entire urban environment and healthy communities. How senior communities fit into healthy communities in a broader way is going to be a great trend. It gives vocational dimension to wellness to many of the residents,” in their engagement with the larger city or community.

  • “Two is language.” We’re changing how we say things to discipline what we do. “We just experienced going from CCRC to a Life Plan Community. . . but already they’re signaling that wellness isn’t a great term anymore. Because [consumers say], ‘. . .I wouldn’t be ninety-years old if I didn’t know something about wellness. So is [the right word] vitality? Is it life enrichment? I think that [the terminology] is the next thing that is going to start changing.”

There’s always some danger if the listener thinks you are preaching to the choir, nagging or lecturing them. So words can matter. How we express big ideas may need to be different when communicating with our customers than chatting amongst industry insiders. Industry shorthand doesn’t always translate well into the customer’s voice. They hear things differently than the experts intend.

  • “The final trend is getting better wellness programs into memory care. Because I think we ignore some of the needs of people because of our perception of their cognitive impairment. What I suggest is, it’s not necessarily about a regimented wellness program.” [We have to address] “all [six] of the dimensions [of whole-person wellness]. Even for the cognitively impaired. This may mean looking at the rhythms of daily life. Slow it down a little bit and make it engaging for someone with cognitive impairment. I think this is going to be another big trend. How do we infuse wellness [in all its dimensions] into memory care so it is a more enriching program.”

We’ve heard others describe regimentation as a feature of programming organized for the convenience of staff rather than the benefit of residents. Person-centered care with its emphasis on whole-person wellness and resident choice leads down a different path from regimentation. Is it really improving every resident’s well-being to wake-up at the same time as every other patient, every day? This is true in Assisted Living and Memory Care units and also more broadly in Independent Living and senior services generally.

Cee Cee suggests that lifelong learning, done well, cultivates creativity and doesn’t dumb down to the juvenile level. Cognitive level is not the same as emotional experience. Even with impaired memories we have different, more mature emotional responses. Being of a certain age doesn’t mean we’ve lost all memories. Even memory impairment doesn’t mean we experience life’s experience as a child.

“One of the organizations I really love is the National Center for Creative Aging. It really is focused primarily on the Arts, but it is the whole range of arts. Everything from poetry to acting. Playwright to dance. Singing. Handwriting. Being an author. It is rooted in the Gene Cohen philosophy. He wrote the book, ‘The Creative Age.’ His philosophy or premise is that we actually get more creative as we age because of our collective experiences. . . I think it’s a very motivating philosophy. . . [I]t allows you to try and potentially fail at what you’re trying to create. But you have this sense, ‘I can do this!’ Based on your experience, and frankly your wisdom and age.”

Age is an advantage. It informs our creativity.

“So I like that whole creative age philosophy. . . [I]t elevates [programming] to a very adult level. So often we infuriate our residents in some of these programs by being too simplistic. Painting class shouldn’t be almost a paint-by-numbers approach. Rather [we should] study the artist, the artist’s principles. Maybe have an actual artist teaching, where it is at an adult level, rather than utilizing Bingo as a socializing engagement of the month.”


Cee Cee predicts this whole-person wellness approach will be reflected in more mature, adult level programming emphasizing creativity, even in memory care. Memory care can be patient-directed and individualized.

Cee Cee predicts we’ll be more conscious of our language both among experts and with consumers to better discipline our actions and assure we’re addressing the whole-person and all six dimensions of an individual’s unique wellness: emotional, intellectual, social, vocational (occupational or service), spiritual and physical. It’s about ability, not disability. What you still can do, not what you can’t do. Our language has to reflect this.

Cee Cee predicts we’ll work in partnership or collaboration with other organizations in the broader community in order to better serve the unique needs of individuals within our own programming. We’ll need to do so to find experts across the full spectrum necessary to serve whole-person wellness in individual terms. We can’t be great at everything. But we can partner with those who are great at elements of the whole.

Resources mentioned by Cee Cee Hodgson:

  1. Masterpiece Living 
  2. Planetree Visionary Design Network 
  3. National Center for Creative Aging 
  4. The Creative Age, Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD, © 2001 

For more on Cee Cee Hodgson and the concept of whole-person wellness trends and the six dimensions of wellness see:

6 Whole-Person Wellness Dimensions

c.c. hodgson architectural group

National Whole-Person Survey Wellness Report 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis