Senior couple relaxing on porch, holding hand, laughing

Two quarters into the COVID-19 pandemic, occupancy within continuing care retirement communities has remained nearly 9 percentage points higher than occupancy within non-CCRCs. That’s according to data released Wednesday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care’s NIC MAP Data Service.

In the third quarter, CCRC occupancy — including stabilized and non-stabilized units, entrance fee and rental payment types, and in both nonprofit and for-profit communities — fell 260 basis points from the second quarter to a new low of 86.6%. Non-CCRC occupancy averaged 77.7% for the quarter — a very wide 8.9 percentage points lower than CCRC occupancy. Entrance fee CCRC occupancy (89%) was 6.4 percentage points higher than rental CCRCs (82.6%), and not-for-profit CCRC occupancy (88.2%) was 6 percentage points higher than for-profit CCRCs (82.2%). Prior to its second quarter fall, CCRC occupancy oscillated around 91% for 22 consecutive quarters, NIC reported.

The reasons for these wide discrepancies in occupancy rates are varied, NIC Senior Principal Lana Peck noted.

“New CCRC residents are generally healthier than residents in other types of seniors housing, resulting in lower resident turnover in CCRCs,” she said. “CCRCs also typically have larger campuses and differentiated residential environments separated by care segments — which may allow operators to mitigate spread of the virus by protecting more vulnerable populations in autonomous settings. Additionally, the contract stipulations of entrance fee CCRCs, which tend to be varied and unique, may attract retirees who may have been less inclined to move out during the pandemic.”

The occupancy rate differences also may be due to the varying inventory mixes in CCRCs compared with non-CCRC communities. CCRCs, overall, consist of a majority of independent living units (55.4%), followed by nursing care units (27%), assisted living units (13.8%) and memory care units (3.8%). Non-CCRCs, on the other hand, overall have lower proportions of independent living units (14.5%) and higher proportions of nursing care units (52.1%), assisted living units (24.7%) and memory care units (8.6%). Thus, the overall CCRC occupancy rate, compared with the overall non-CCRC occupancy rate, may be influenced positively by majority unit mix.