In all industries, change in the market over time is inevitable. Thriving as change occurs requires having a clear vision of the future and taking action to reposition, reimagine or redesign products and services to meet new market demands.

Senior living is an industry that has been experiencing significant changes over the last decade resulting from shifting demographics, new technology and the ACA’s transformation of the health care delivery system. The senior living market, which has been evolving during this time, has now reached a tipping point and is poised for disruption.

Disruption often comes from outside an industry; from those who see opportunity in a changing market and are not wedded to the status quo. They will initiate a product development process that includes market research to test assumptions, clarify customer values, identify unmet needs and determine the new features and benefits that will generate demand.

Many senior living developers and operators have become entrenched in existing business models that can be quite lucrative, even while serving a small (10%) segment of the growing older adult market. Taking a wait and see attitude will likely result in new industry leaders emerging who attract a larger segment of the market to their products and services.

For those interested in riding the aging wave as a developer, operator or service delivery partner, change is bringing new opportunities with the potential for significant financial rewards. A 2013 Brooks Adams research study of consumer trends reveals that 76% of adults 50+ are likely to move to some type of older adult community in the future. The industry, with its current senior housing and service models, is likely leaving more then 60% of the market on the table.

Opportunities have never been greater to re-envision current product and service models and expand the role the senior living industry can play going forward. There is great interest in finding solutions for the growing number of older adults who are unable to afford the options currently available. There are partnership opportunities with health care systems, multi-family housing developers, mixed-use developments, retail center developments, technology companies and more, for those who understand the direction these changes are taking the market and who hold a long-term vision.

For some time now the industry has been asking itself “what’s next”. It’s now time for the industry to ask that question of the market! Rather than the usual industry research that focuses on what future customers like or don’t like about current offerings, what’s needed is to listen to this new generation of older adults express their aspirations for this time of life and describe the kind of community environments and experiences that would interest and even excite them.

It takes a village to serve older adults and their families, many of whom lack the financial resources required for the existing senior housing and care options. It’s time to explore how that village might be created through partnerships with health care systems, insurance companies, real estate development, retail centers, technology companies, academia and more. Through partnerships the industry can leverage its services and expertise creating new customers and revenue streams.

Senior living is going to be HUGE. It’s time for the senior living industry to join with others and begin working to create a new vision of the future, one that is wanted and needed by so many.