John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Mama used to say that the only good thing about being sick is that you’ll eventually feel better. Perhaps the same might be said for COVID-19?

For two solid years, the pandemic has been doing some very nasty things to the senior living sector. Among its greatest hits: reducing occupancy and payments, increasing staffing challenges and greatly raising operating costs. Plus that small matter of thousands of residents and staff members who became sick or — worse.

But if recent earnings calls are any indication, happier days may be here again.

Juggernaut Brookdale Senior Living just reported record move-ins and occupancy improvements during the third quarter.

“Our weighted average occupancy grew 750 basis points since the start of the positive turn in March 2021, which demonstrates the strength of our recovery,” said President and CEO Lucinda “Cindy” Baier.

“We do think that we are at the beginning of a ‘super cycle,’ where we have occupancy growth and strong rate performance,” added Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Steve Swain during an earnings call earlier this week.

And despite “flatish” earning trends, Welltower CEO and Chief Investment Officer Shankh Mitra said he was pleased with the real estate investment trust’s recent progress.

“We are at the very early inning of senior housing recovery and will remain as excited as ever about the growth prospects in the coming years,” he said.

And despite wage pressures that stifled third-quarter earnings, The Pennant Group saw occupancy and revenue gains in the quarter that was “significant” according to CEO Brent Guerisoli. He said he expects to see more of where that came from.

Looking at the larger picture, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care reported that the occupancy rate for seniors housing — defined as the combination of the majority independent living and assisted living property types — rose 1% to 82.2% from the second to third quarter. This marked the sixth consecutive quarter where occupancy either rose or remained stable.

So yes, clearly, there are signs that the worst is over. That alone should make you feel better.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.