Visit an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility, and one observation may immediately strike you—there are a lot more women than men. In fact, Argentum reports that women outnumber men in assisted living by a ratio of 7 to 1, and the ratio is even higher at nursing homes.
Why Women Outnumber Men
The gender discrepancy in senior living is caused by the fact that women outlive men by an average of six to seven years. Women make up 56 percent of the population over 65 years of age, and they are two-thirds of the population over 85 years.
After an older person loses his or her spouse and can no longer live alone, a need for assisted living or skilled nursing often arises. Because the surviving spouse is more frequently a woman, this tips the balance of the senior living population toward the female side.
When Men Are Outnumbered
Men may not feel “at home” in a senior living community that is predominantly populated by women. In some cases, it can be something as simple as the décor—i.e., an environment in which pinks and purples dominate and floral patterns are more prominent than paisleys or geometrics.
Other aspects of the senior living may likewise be geared to the preponderance of women among the elderly. Perhaps TV shows in the lounges are tuned to HGTV rather than ESPN. Perhaps the weekly activities calendar is dominated by crafts, bingo, and “rom-com” movie nights, whereas men might be more entertained if the calendar also included a poker night or an action flick on the lounge TV.
What Men Should Look For
Because most senior living communities are dominated by women, families may need to be more diligent when looking for an appropriate place for their father to live. When checking out various residents, ask about the male-to-female ratio. In its blog post entitled “A Place for Dad: Does Gender Matter in Senior Care,” A Place for Mom recommends looking for a community in which men make up at least 20 to 25 percent of total residents.
It also makes sense for families to check out amenities before determining whether a particular assisted living community of nursing home is right for their dad. There are many communities, for example, that make sure there’s a specific lounge area that is reserved for watching local sports on a big-screen TV. That doesn’t necessary mean that everyone watching will be a male resident—after all, there are plenty of women who are sports fans as well.
Also take a look at the calendar of activities, making sure the community offers a range of games that have equitable appeal to both genders. For instance, men may find it appealing that the calendar features poker as well as bingo. And they might enjoy the fact that there is an “Action Movie Night” to counter-balance the rom-coms and classic musicals that are offered during the rest of the week.
In addition, check out the regularly scheduled outings to make sure that those have enough appeal for both genders. While men as well as women may enjoy a trip to the local mall or a theatrical performance, sometimes a trip to a local lake for an afternoon of fishing may be just the type of activity that male residents—and many females also—may enjoy.
And don’t forget that physical surroundings do matter. If you’re touring several communities, you may want to cross off your list those that seem overly feminized. Or if everything else about the community is appealing, perhaps you can talk to the administrators to see if there are areas that could be made more gender-neutral out of consideration for the male residents.
Be an Advocate for Change
Finally, don’t forget that your dad—and as an extension of your dad, his family—can advocate for changes in the senior living community. For instance, if the portions at mealtime are too skimpy for your dad’s appetite, it can be helpful to speak up. If your dad loves golf, perhaps it would be possible to plan an outing to a driving range—or perhaps even set up a modest indoor or outdoor putting green. If that’s not possible, a video game version of golf may suffice.
Men may be outnumbered by women, but they are still an important demographic for assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. They and their families should do what they can to make their preferences know, as that is the best way to have an impact on how senior living communities serve their residents.
CHIME IN: How does your father’s senior living community make sure that male residents have activities and amenities they enjoy?