Beth Burnham Mace headshot
Beth Burnham Mace

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the second quarter, units in the senior living sector emptied out as never before. Occupancy levels declined by 2.8% to 84.9%, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. Both tallies were the worst ever recorded by NIC, which has been tracking such numbers for the past 14 years.

How bad was the downturn? Only two markets — Cleveland and Sacramento — saw occupancy improvements between April and June. Atlanta and Denver experienced the worst dips.

San Jose (92.3%), San Francisco (89.5%), Baltimore (89.0%) and Tampa (87.5%) had the highest second quarter occupancy rates of the 31 metropolitan markets that comprise NIC MAP’s primary markets, whereas Houston (78.5%), Atlanta (78.9%) and Las Vegas (81.4%) recorded the lowest.

Overall, assisted living occupancy decreased 3.2 percentage points to 82.1% during the quarter, whereas independent living fell 2.4 percentage points to 87.4%.

“COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the older, frailer residents of assisted living properties, many of whom suffer from multiple chronic conditions,” Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist, said in a press release. “It’s understandable why assisted living occupancy dropped at a greater rate than independent living in the second quarter.”  

Chuck Harry, NIC’s chief operating officer, said occupancy improvements are likely going forward, “but setbacks are likely far from over.”

Read an exclusive McKnight’s Senior Living interview with Mace about the latest numbers here.