A growing elderly population and new preferences of older adults will drive changes to assisted living communities in the future, predict the authors of a new report.

The publication, by MIT’s Center for Real Estate and commissioned by Capital One, describes the way changes in technology, demographics and policy will come together to fundamentally alter the way industry professionals — investors, developers, builders and site managers — conduct business.

Among the changes for assisted living predicted in “Real Trends: The Future of Real Estate in the United States” are:

  • More services being automated due to a lack of enough competent workers compared with the number of older adults. Sensors, automatized pill and intravenous drug dispensers, robots and other technologies will become more prevalent.
  • Larger and more complex buildings to take advantage of economies of scale in the provision of care. In these larger complexes, social interactions between residents will partially substitute for paid services, according to authors Albert Saiz and Arianna Salazar. 
  • A move away from isolated, standalone assisted living communities and seniors housing. “Some of these facilities — only accessible by car and distanced from social, cultural and retail opportunities — may still play a necessary role for many, due to their proximity and convenience,” the report states. “Nonetheless, we believe society will want to honor our seniors with richer social environments where they can promenade or be assisted to move around. We will similarly wish that the elderly will have access to more varied entertainment opportunities and a diverse group of friends. Hence some new facilities will be sited in more urban environments.”
  • Senior residences that are part of “civic centers” in suburban and exurban environments that also include public buildings, schools, retail, multifamily units and mixed-use buildings — encompassing residential, office and shopping space — all clustered in proximity. “In addition to serving our elderly, such future civic centers have the promise of facilitating social interactions across age groups, anchoring smaller local retail and entrepreneurial activities, providing a sense of identity, and facilitating leisure opportunities and active lifestyles,” the authors write.

The authors also predict the development of “intergenerational compounds” in suburbs, where due to financial constraints on private individuals and Medicare, family members will care for older adults who have reduced mental or physical capabilities. Such compounds will include a conventional unit with either an adjacent in-law building, attached addition, finished basement with bathroom and kitchenette, or garage retrofitted to house the older members of the family, they write.

The report covers affordable housing and other topics, too.