Yes, the aging of the baby boomers may result in a “silver wave” of residents moving into senior living communities, but Kevin Mackie is urging caution. And independent living “may be left out to dry,” he says.
Mackie’s piece on SeekingAlpha caught my eye because, as he noted, “few have been contrarian voices” about whether senior living will benefit from the undeniable demographics associated with the Baby Boom generation.
The article is behind a pay wall on SeekingAlpha, a crowd-sourced site containing content for financial markets, so you’ll need to subscribe if you want to read the whole thing. Mackie is an investor, and his piece was written for fellow investors, particularly those interested in real estate investment trusts, but it still contains food for thought for the entire senior living industry.
The problem with waves, he writes, is that they eventually recede, and trying to time a wave as it crests and before it breaks is difficult. Although research and many surveys about boomer demographics, preferences and savings habits, etc., including ones that McKnight’s Senior Living has reported on, provide insights that owners and operators can use to try to help predict the future, they offer no guarantees.
According to Where You Live Matters, the consumer education site from the American Seniors Housing Association, right now, most older adults move into senior living communities between the ages of 75 and 84. The oldest baby boomers are turning 73 this year, meaning if they choose senior living, they’ll be making the move, on average, in two to 11 years from now. The youngest boomers, turning 55 this year, won’t be 75 for 20 more years, and won’t be 84 for 29 more years.
So it seems as if a wave could begin in earnest in two years and maybe last for about 30, right? And maybe independent living is the area that owners and operators should focus on first, because independent living residents are relatively the youngest and healthiest? Not so fast, Mackie says.
Why? His reasoning: Independent living residents pay out-of-pocket; many boomers won’t be able to afford the current independent living product, especially if they delay a move and already have spent much of their retirement savings; and older adults increasingly prefer to age in place in their existing homes, don’t want to downsize or leave neighbors, or don’t want to pay for housing again after having paid off their mortgages.
Assisted living and skilled nursing, by contrast, are more of a necessity for older adults who choose them, due to care needs, Mackie points out.
And even though Gen Xers, who will follow the boomers, “may soak up some of the demand” after the silver wave, “How are we to anticipate how they will behave? What is that wave going to look like?” Mackie asks.
True, some of these thoughts aren’t revelations. To you. But they may be for some of those reading Mackie’s piece online.
The long-term care and senior living industries always are evolving and will continue to do so, with owners and operators trying to make the best use of the best research available to them. If nothing else, this piece conveys a sense of urgency to the quest to develop and implement new models of senior housing, including but not limited to affordable housing and middle-market senior living. Otherwise, as Mackie fears, “operators will be left with some empty beds and nothing to do with them.”