Diversity Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Diversity

During 2018, we have undertaken an ongoing blog series in which we take a look at the opportunities and challenges faced by the diverse groups of Boomers and seniors being served by today’s aging services providers.

For our first article in the series, we examined a rapidly growing population in the United States — Latino Boomers and seniors. In our second article, we looked at the changes that LGBT seniors are driving in the marketplace.

In this, our third article, we talk about America’s largest growing ethnic demographic – Asians.

If you were to walk into an average not-for-profit Life Plan Community in America, you would likely not find a large population of Asian-Americans. They are conspicuously absent on most campuses, even as other ethnic groups grow and prosper. Many Life Plan Communities now openly celebrate and welcome diversity, yet we continue to see low numbers of Asians moving to senior living communities. This leads us to wonder: Why is this the case, and what could a smart aging services organization do to tap into this market?

According to the latest Pew Research numbers, the Asian population in America has grown by 72 percent since the year 2000. That growth rate is faster than any other ethnicity, including Hispanics. However, as Westerners, we need to remember just how diverse the Asian population actually is. China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam are the most well-known countries of origin, but the largest growth is coming from lesser-known nations, such as Nepal, Burma, Laos and Bhutan. The cultures of these countries are incredibly diverse, yet in America, they all get lumped into one category: Asian. Aging services providers need to keep this in mind if they wish to tap into this market. Becoming educated about lesser-known Asian cultures — especially those who are providers in or near large cities — could create a profitable niche market for communities.

Of course, there are other challenges that a study of geography and culture can’t address. For instance, it is widely known that Asian families place a great deal of value on children caring for their parents as they age. Children are expected to welcome their parents into their homes if need be, or to stay with them if they require additional attention and care. Culturally, this is what is expected of the family, and there can be great shame placed upon a child that does not appropriately fulfill his or her filial duties.

Obviously, this is in stark contrast to the types of living options offered by retirement communities, making it a hard sell for many Asian families; however, cultural expectations and perceptions are changing. In China, for instance, nursing care is becoming more common because of the one-child-per-family policy. It is very difficult for a single child to care for two aging parents. The focus is shifting away from being personally responsible for caring for one’s parents to planning and funding their care by others. In this case, the child is still fulfilling his or her duties by providing for the parents — even if not by doing it him or herself.

This model is important for western providers to keep in mind as they market to the Asian population. There are still strong culture mores in place surrounding parents and aging. If your organization can find a way to creatively address this issue and reach into the Asian market, you’ll be way ahead of your competitors. This is exactly what Aegis Living is doing in Seattle.

In 2017, Aegis realized that there was a huge, untapped market for senior living services that catered to Asians. Its new community, called Aegis Gardens, sits at the epicenter of the Asian population in Washington, with more 90,000 Asian Americans living within 25 miles of the campus. Aegis is designing the community with Asian aesthesis in mind, including hiring a feng shui expert to help in the planning. The community is going to be a high-end marvel, dedicated to reaching a niche market that is being underserved.

This idea will not work everywhere, however. In today’s market, there is great value placed on luxury branded products. While the Seattle market might be able to support a luxury Asian-inspired community, most Asian-Americans cannot afford luxury. According to a 2017 Huffington Post article, Asian-Americans are roughly 1.5 times more likely to be classified as poor than are their Caucasian peers. Between 2009 and 2014, just as the Asian population was booming, so, too, were their poverty rates — which shot up 40 percent in this five-year period. This is why affordable housing developers are also eying the Asian market.

Not far from the luxury Aegis community in Seattle, a nonprofit named Kin On is expanding its presence. Kin On also focuses on Asian-Americans, choosing affordability and care over luxury. The community has existed for more than 30 years and now has a thriving population of Asian residents. Kin On ensures a mix of staff members that can speak Asian languages and provides Asian-inspired meal choices and activities that specifically appeal to the culture. As a not-for-profit community, Kin On concentrates on providing great care to residents that may not have other culturally appropriate options.

We don’t expect aging services providers to go out and develop completely new model communities that cater to a small niche population — especially if their locality doesn’t have one — however, just as with our other articles in this series, we think it behooves providers to get educated about diversity and provide more than the just the base level of cultural understanding.







During 2018, we have undertaken an ongoing blog series in which we take a look at the opportunities and challenges faced by the diverse groups of Boomers and seniors being served by today’s aging services providers.

For our first article in the series, we examined a rapidly growing population in the United States — Latino Boomers and seniors.

In this, our second article, we are looking at the challenges faced by LGBT Boomers and seniors as they age in a changing society.

It was early — almost too early, some would say — but I was interested in the topic, so I got up early for the 7:30 a.m. session at the LeadingAge California Annual Conference and Exhibition.

The speaker was from SAGE, an advocacy group for LGBT Boomers and seniors. His presentation was discussing how communities are adapting their policies and culture to become more welcoming to LGBT individuals. The audience was fuller than I expected, with approximately 20 people. They were clutching their coffees and wiping the sleep from their eyes. Such is the bane of the early morning presenter.

After the typical opening remarks, the presenter said something that caught everyone’s attention. “I guarantee you that there are LGBT individuals residing in your communities right now.” You could almost hear the wheels start to turn.

“Do you have two women that live together, who are lifelong friends?” he said. “Did you have two men move into the community at the same time who chose to live in separate apartments? How about Mrs. Jones down at the end of the hall, who was never married?” Then, like a sunrise, it dawned on the participants, including myself: LGBT individuals are at all of our communities. They just choose not to be out because of personal, societal or cultural reasons.

Admit it. As you read this, you probably thought of someone at your community who fits this description. That’s because the presenter was right — these individuals reside at all of our communities. We need to recognize it and, frankly, we need to do a better job of meeting their needs as they age.

According to SAGE, there are currently three million LGBT adults over the age of 50 in the United States. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to seven million. These individuals are twice as likely to be single or living alone, and four times less likely to have children. This is significant because, as we age, our families are often the first people we turn to for care. But, in many cases, LGBT seniors may not have that kind of support. This can lead to social isolation, with more than 60 percent of LGBT adults reporting feeling a lack of companionship, with more than 50 percent feeling isolated from others.

Obviously, there is a huge market for culturally competent aging services providers to provide care to these individuals. The key here is that the provider is truly culturally competent. Thirty-four percent of LGBT older adults fear having to re-closet themselves when seeking senior housing in order to be accepted or to fit into a community. This fear isn’t just in regards to the staff and administration; it also relates to the other residents who form the day-to-day life at the community.

What can you do, today, to become more culturally aware and competent in assisting LGTB Boomers and seniors?

We encourage you to look around your community and ask yourself if it is welcoming to LGBT individuals. Be realistic. Would you residents be accepting of an openly LGBT person? Would your team know how to address him or her respectfully? Could you accommodate his or her needs?

There’s a huge market being created right now for communities that can appropriately care for LGBT individuals. This could be your organization’s chance to get in on the ground floor of this movement. Not only will you be doing the right thing, but it could easily give you a leg up on your competition.

We encourage you to check out SAGE and engage its training program for your team — starting with your executives and working downward to your frontline associates. Becoming SAGE-certified is a great way to show that you’re taking the LGBT Boomer and senior community seriously and that you want to meet its needs.

Diversity has never been more important in senior living than it is right now. The fabric of American culture is changing. What people want from an aging services provider is changing. Providers can either adapt and welcome diversity or shun it and wither on the vine.

What path will your organization choose?




During 2018, we have undertaken an ongoing blog series: We are taking a look at the opportunities and challenges faced by the diverse groups of Boomers and seniors being served by today’s aging services providers.

For our first article in the series, we examine a rapidly growing population in the United States: Latino Boomers and seniors.

The numbers don’t lie.

According to Pew Research, in 2015, there were 57 million Americans who identified as Hispanic or Latino. Between 2000 and 2014, 54 percent of the United States population growth came from Latinos. This growth hasn’t just occurred along the Southern borders, either. The top three counties for Latino growth in the United States are all in North Dakota, thanks to the Bakken shale oil boom.

Put yourself in the shoes of an aging Latino immigrant to the United States. You’ve probably come from a country with a lower standard wage and less opportunities. You’ve now worked in America, and you’re looking at retirement. If you were fortunate to work in an industry that provided retirement benefits, you might be in good fiscal shape; perhaps you can afford to retire to a community with quality care and a high standard of living. But is that community ready for you?

If we were to poll the sales & marketing directors at any number of communities around the country, they would say that their community is welcoming of Latinos and ready to meet their needs — and they aren’t being deceptive. From a sales & marketing standpoint, most aging services organizations are indeed ready for an influx of Latino residents, but the challenges don’t exist at the front door, so to speak; rather, they exist internally in the community and how the social structure of retirement may differ from the cultural norms that Latinos value.

Let’s start with marketing materials. Often, aging services organizations use a pastel palette, which conveys caring and relaxation. These colors traditionally appeal to women, who are often the key decision-makers regarding the retirement process, especially among Caucasians. According to Lester Long, who has studied Latino culture, the father is the head of the average Latino house, and while the mother is responsible for its maintenance, major decisions rest with the man. These family structures remain at the heart of Latino personal relations.

Family is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor, for many Latinos. There is a strong sense of duty and honor for this demographic, especially when it comes to family hospitality. When travelling to other cities, Latinos opt to stay with family during the trip. Would that be allowed in your community? Could a Latino family stay with one of your residents for a few days? Offering this type of service could be a great addition to your marketing if you’re trying to attract Latino residents.

Appealing to potential Latino residents can also prove challenging because, as a culture, they place great importance on the present, with less concern for the future. Therefore, all of the “safety net” programs that aging services groups offer can fall on deaf ears in the Latino community. Concentrating on what your community offers today can prove more effective than discussing services that the potential resident may never need.

Latino residents are a huge opportunity for retirement service providers, but their wants and needs vary slightly from the position that senior sales & marketing professionals tend to take. By making some subtle changes to your strategy now, you could easily find your organization on the forefront of the Latino Boomer influx, giving you a leg up in the market.


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