The interiors of most facilities — built under standards known as universal design — are “not always aesthetically pleasing,” says Maddy Dychtwald, the author of three books on aging and a co-founder of AgeWave, a consulting firm on population aging. Universal design produces buildings, products and environments accessible to people with and without disabilities.
“Women tend to just go with it. Men don’t. It’s that same old story with doctors.” Women will continue to see a doctor they might not like. Men won’t. They’ll find another. Or they just won’t go at all. “Men tend to go into assisted living kicking and screaming. They don’t like to utilize the system. Women are more likely to say, ‘I can see how this place is helpful to me.’ ”
(MICHAEL BYERS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
“It’s the same reason men won’t ask for driving directions or won’t consult the manual when putting together a barbecue grill,” says French. They resist. “For men, the assisted living issue is most complex in terms of attraction rather than retention. It’s easier to develop plans for a guy once he is in the facility than it is to convince him he has to go.”
The upside: Men, according to studies, benefit significantly from “the system” once they agree to use it. “At home, men are more likely than women to live a solitary, lonely existence. In a facility, they become socially engaged and benefit quite dramatically,” says French.
The challenge is to make these places more attractive to men, experts say. Floral window treatments won’t cut it. First and foremost, “men tend to gather in places where they feel physically comfortable,” says Adler. Second, we probably need to think more about how this generation of men grew up immersed in media and became savvy consumers who took their first bite of the marketing pie by singing advertising jingles along with Howdy Doody (whose show was created, in part, to sell color TVs).
“We have to change the name,” says Dychtwald. “Assisted living? There must be something else we can call it.”
Gerhardt recently completed a memoir about her father’s stroke.