Occupancy, the prospect journey, technology and COVID-19 are the top headwinds facing the long-term care industry, according to a recent report from predictive marketing firm G5.

“The elephant in the room with senior living is occupancy, or lack thereof,” the authors said. They used “senior living” to refer to independent living, assisted living and memory care but also skilled nursing.

Occupancy is inching its way back from pre-pandemic levels in most senior living and care markets, but the pace of move-ins has reversed course for many in the third quarter, according to survey results released last week by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. Approximately 25% of the survey respondents with assisted living units and/or skilled nursing beds, and about 20% with memory care units, indicated a slow-down of move-ins across their properties between Aug. 6 and Sept. 6. Fifty-nine percent of responding organizations with independent living residences, however, reported no change in the pace of move-ins, according to the NIC survey.

The prospect journey has changed somewhat since 2020, with consumers hitting more touchpoints in searching for senior living and care, according to G5. The majority (78.7%) of those searching for a senior living community or skilled nursing facility for themselves or a family member to move into are looking to relocate to a community in six or fewer months, according to another recent report, from Seniorly. According to the G5 report, the number of touchpoints increased by 23% from May 2019 to May 2021. 

“To be blunt, seniors and their loved ones are doubling down on their online research to make sure your community is the right fit,” the G5 report authors wrote.

Therefore, digital marketing is not the place to cut spending, they said, adding that providers should take advantage of the benefits of technology.

“In a low occupancy market, leads are essential to the financial health of senior living communities,” according to the report. “Virtual and contact-less options are thriving for seniors and other vulnerable populations.” 

Technology has advanced at a record pace, and the industry must keep up with it, they said. Thirteen to 17% of doctor’s appointments are now conducted via telehealth.

Lastly, COVID-19 has presented multiple challenges to senior living and care.

“Between public perception, historically low occupancy levels, the delta variant, and hiring pressures, senior living is in a challenging place due to all things COVID,” the authors wrote.