older Black couple sitting near moving boxes

The COVID-19 pandemic severely affected the senior living sector, and the disruption likely will generate long-term changes in design and operations, according to a survey of 200 industry professionals conducted by New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman.

Overall results of the study, which also included a series of qualitative interviews conducted with more than 80 industry leaders, suggest that divergent views exist about the current health of the industry, but consensus shows that the future is bright. 

“It would not have been a surprise to see results that were pessimistic, especially given the significant amount of negative media attention during the pandemic that failed to differentiate among the types of senior living,” the survey authors wrote. “What this survey shows, however, is a resilient industry with an outlook of long-term growth opportunities.”

A majority of respondents (77%) reported that the loss of revenue they had experienced due to an inability to market and/or fill residences would be short-lived, but fully 80% said they believed that increased operational costs will continue long-term as part of a sustained and greater focus on reducing the spread of disease. Other long-term effects included design changes to common areas and amenity spaces as well as HVAC systems upgrades. One major unknown is what effect, if any, the negative press will have on marketing and consumer behaviors in the long run, respondents said.

Survey results also showed interest trending downward among operators for urban living, multi-generational living and destination senior living abroad. Those changes may be a short-term outcome due to respondents’ need to focus solely on keeping residents safe in the past year, instead of considering new models, the report authors said. The survey showed a steady rise in increased interest in models that provide flexibility and choice to the resident, however, with a focus on wellness and aging in place/apartments-for-life, hybrid independent and assisted living, and centers for healthy living. 

“Though there are a lot of conveniences and events/attractions available in cities, there is also the density and health concerns we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have impacted people’s interest in living in cities,” the authors noted. “Based on lifestyle expectations of the senior market, we believe this is a short-term trend, but only time will tell.”