COVID-19 didn’t do much to change opinions of potential future senior living residents, with the appeal of those communities mostly increasing in the wake of the pandemic, according to the results of a new survey.

“Impacts of COVID-19 on the Seniors Housing Industry: A Study of Consumers Round 2” from the American Seniors Housing Association is the second national consumer survey of sentiments regarding senior living. It follows an initial survey conducted last summer coinciding with ASHA’s “Senior Living Today & Everyday” public relations campaign from May 2020 to January 2021.

“We have been very committed to combating negative COVID-19 impact since last spring, and the new consumer research suggests ASHA’s extensive public relations efforts have been helpful,” ASHA President David Schless said. “While there is no doubt the industry’s recovery will take time, the data provides ample evidence that consumers will continue to embrace the value proposition and benefits offered by our communities across all service levels.”

According to survey results, the majority of prospects and adult children indicated that COVID-19 has not changed their opinion of active adult, independent living, assisted living and memory care communities. Eighty percent of households were actively shopping for a retirement community in the past year. The majority of potential residents were shopping for independent living, whereas their adult children predominantly were shopping for an assisted living or memory care community.

The proportion of respondents reporting a negative change in opinion of independent living or memory care in the second survey was less than half of what was observed in the first one. In fact, the pandemic seems to have had a positive effect on the decision to move to memory care.

Across all levels of care, those who now have a more positive opinion said that new policies and procedures aimed at providing greater levels of protection against COVID-19 most affected their views. Respondents also said that they see communities as offering safe options for socialization and companionship. 

“It is clear that the industry has worked hard to build the trust of consumers, and this research points to several tangible steps that operators have taken to make prospective customers feel safe and secure about moving into communities of all levels of care as we continue to emerge from the pandemic’s toughest situations,” said Margaret Wylde, Ph.D., CEO of the market research firm ProMatura Group.

Those who hold more negative opinions of the industry indicated that they still believe that communities have too many cases and deaths from the virus, and they believe residents are too isolated from their friends and loved ones.

Early access to a COVID-19 vaccine, a guarantee that rates will not increase for three years, waived move-in or community fees, assurances that all staff members and residents have been vaccinated and that there are no new COVID-19 cases in a community were among the most significant factors influencing a decision to move to a community, according to the survey results.

The survey also pointed to primary care physicians as a target for marketing because many prospects and their adult children view their physicians as a source of information about potential communities.

The survey was conducted by ProMatura in December and represents 4,321 individuals from 208 senior housing communities, as well as older adult household prospects 75 and older and their adult children.

Related Articles