Time to Rethink the Aging Adult Community
Here’s why steam rooms and steam showers are revolutionizing the aging-in-place concept
Call it what you want— the age explosion, the Baby Boomer factor, the senior population crisis—but the facts are clear: For the first time in history, older people are projected to outnumber children in the nation, according to the U.S. Census. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2030 more than 70 million Americans will be over the age of 65.
These aging Boomers aren’t like the seniors of earlier generations. They still rock and roll and won’t let you forget it. They refuse the stereotype of senior living, considering themselves young and vital. And they plan to stay active. To quote Dylan Thomas, they’re not about to “go gentle into that good night.”
Marketing executives have noticed. In fact, this new, robust aging population has become one of today’s biggest emerging business trends. Research firm Euromonitor declared “Age Agnostics” as the top global consumer trend of the year. According to their report: “Age Agnostics no longer have a passive attitude toward aging, and this is especially true in wealthier developed countries with decent health-care systems and social conditions.”
This movement of Age Agnostics is particularly prevalent in the U.S. “Baby Boomers [born between 1946 and 1964] are the generation with the most disregard for age,” says the report. “They do not think of themselves as old, and they most definitely do not want to be referred to in those terms.”
This aging generation is not content to be herded together into assisted-living facilities with drab hospital decor and cafeteria food. They’re choosing to live in age-qualified communities that offer resort and spa services. This is a key element of the aging-in-place movement that encourages autonomy and social interaction.
Increasingly, the lifestyle choices of these aging Boomers favor activities that provide anti-aging and wellness benefits. Among the amenities of these forward-thinking adult communities are steam rooms and steam showers. Steam therapy is enticing to this aging population for its possible restorative effects and ability to help improve health and well-being.
Here’s why steam rooms and steam showers have become a key selling point in many aging adult communities.
The aging-in-place movement is all about personal choices and quality of life. People want to choose where they live their later years, and they want to remain social and mobile. For most aging Americans, that means staying in their homes or choosing age-restricted communities that only rent or sell to those 55 years old or older.
These seniors are opting for more self-care, and steam showers provide a highly effective addition to any daily wellness regimen. Steam therapy helps people of all ages look and feel better, but for aging populations, it has a particular appeal when it comes to maintaining a high quality of life.
According to research, here’s how steam rooms and steam showers can benefit seniors when used regularly.
Rejuvenated Skin: Without a doubt, wrinkles and skin integrity are a prime concern of the aging. A daily session in a steam may help improve skin quality through various mechanisms.
The warm heat generated by steam showers goes deep into the three layers of the epidermis. This not only feels good, it may also help provide restorative benefits. One study found that heat can help stabilize pH in skin, thus maintaining the amino acids and free fatty acids stored in the sebaceous glands of the epidermis. These nutrients are the body’s natural defense against free radicals that can damage skin and other cells. This, in effect, creates a “more stable epidermal function,” according to the researchers.
The heat and humidity of steam may also help create a protective barrier in the skin’s outermost layer by hydrating dry skin. And any toxins stored deep into your epidermal layers are flushed out by the therapeutic sweating mechanism that’s a natural response to your body’s exposure to steam.
A steam shower is the perfect complement to other skin regimens aging people are known to use when trying to eliminate wrinkles. But steam therapy is more than a topical treatment. It goes deep and it could help make a difference in maintaining the integrity of aging skin.
A Balm for Tired Muscles and Joints: The generation that danced at Woodstock likes to keep moving. Golf, tennis, ballroom dancing, daily workouts, even the occasional rock concert are still part of their lifestyles.
Steam rooms can help these Boomers keep rockin’. Just for starters, steam therapy has an immediate soothing effect on tired bodies when exposed to the warm embrace of steam. But a steam shower can actually help reduce discomfort and preserve connective tissue due to the effects of modulated heat. Research shows that applying intense heat can soothe nerve endings and relax muscles that result from delayed onset muscle soreness. This heat treatment also increases blood flow to sore muscles, sending healing nutrients to affected areas.
Steam therapy may also help maintain muscle integrity. One of the biggest problems plaguing the aged, especially males, is sarcopenia. That’s the medical term for the gradual loss of muscle tissue that people suffer after age 50. The degradation of lean tissue gradually worsens and leads to numerous problems with mobility and strength.
Studies have shown that intermittent heat application helped enhance muscle regrowth and helped prevent damage to muscle cells in some people. Part of the mechanism here is an increase in blood plasma volume and oxygenation, which helps the body rebuild cells after damage from intense activity. And after a certain age, all activity can feel a bit intense.
Mood and Sleep: One frequent complaint of seniors is poor sleep quality. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is the result of natural changes to our sleep architecture and circadian rhythms as we age. Other factors include chronic illnesses and side effects from prescription drugs.
Whatever the cause of elder sleep disorder, steam therapy may help promote better sleep. This is through an increase in body temperature, which has been shown to help aging people attain better sleep quality and increase “quickness of falling asleep.”
Steam can help with another often neglected problem with seniors: psychological well-being. Problems of aging can lead to depression, and insomnia is closely linked to depression.
How can steam showers possibly help elevate mood? Through whole-body heating, according to research in JAMA Psychiatry. In this rigorous study, scientists found that whole-body heating “holds promise as a safe, rapid-acting, antidepressant modality with a prolonged therapeutic benefit.”
If that’s not enough, other research has found that in some people hyperthermia has had beneficial effects on neuro-hormones that help elevate mood. These include serotonin, the feel-good hormone, and melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep, and having a healthy supply can help improve your nightly shut-eye.
Breathing and Lung Function: Respiratory health is a serious issue in many of the aged, and steam therapy has a long documented history of helping promote better breathing and lung function. This is primarily accomplished by steam’s ability to act as an expectorant. Steam can loosen mucus and phlegm by opening up restricted airways. The humid heat produced by steam rooms can help relieve the chronic inflammatory responses caused by asthma.
Another study found that steam may help provide some relief from congestion in those with severe acute lower respiratory tract issues. This effect may help those who suffer from breathing problems caused by any number of antagonists, including allergy-like symptoms.
Breathing quality is at the heart of a lot of issues for aging populations, and by improving lung function, seniors can stay more active. And better breathing can also be included as a sleep aid, particularly in those seniors who rely on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines.
STEAM: THE SIMPLE WAY TO ACHIEVE A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE
These are just some of the ways steam rooms can help improve the unique issues that affect the aged. Daily sessions in a steam room are ideal for seniors, even those with mobility issues. A session in a steam room is a passive treatment. It simply involves sitting in a clean, controlled environment that administers the healthful properties of steam therapy. It’s an easy way to feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
But, some may ask, is a steam shower practical to include as a key amenity in an aging-in-place situation? Is it affordable to install steam rooms in an active retirement community?
The short answer is yes! Not only are steam rooms and steam showers affordable, but they can actually pay for themselves in a short time period. Installing a steam shower in your residence may help boost your home value by almost 30%! Those who are designing active senior communities can make a huge difference in the quality of life for residents while improving their bottom line. And aging boomers, or children of aging parents, who are considering refitting their homes for aging-in-place situations would find the same benefits from including steam rooms and steam showers in their plans.
Installing these units is not as complicated and costly as many believe. Check out some of MrSteam’s case studies to see how you can find a steam room that fits your needs, or visit a dealer showroom for an in-person look. You’ll find that attaining the benefits of steam therapy is much more practical than you think.
Shouldn’t your later years be your best years? Live your best life at any age by enjoying the life-enhancing benefits of steam therapy. It’s easier than you think.