The future of seniors housing will depend on several factors, but to National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace, “It’s all about a vaccine.”

In a call Monday with members of the media before NIC’s Fall Conference begins on Tuesday, Mace said the value proposition remains for the seniors housing industry, but a COVID-19 vaccine is the key to future success. 

“It’s all about a vaccine and its viability, its acceptance and its distribution,” Mace said during the opening press conference for the 2020 NIC Fall Conference, which is being held online this year due to the pandemic. “We don’t know when we’ll have a vaccine or how long it will take to distribute.”

Although COVID-19 has had an effect on seniors housing market fundamentals, including occupancy rates, demand drivers still support seniors housing, including a decrease in available family caregivers, higher divorce rates and an aging population.

“Seniors housing is increasingly recognized as a critical part of the solution for population health management and healthcare cost containment. It’s a growing social, economic and political reality,” Mace said. “We have to get our arms around how we can support the care and housing needs of seniors in a more cost effective way.”

Many operators are reporting long wait lists for their properties, so the value proposition has not gone away, she said. But the industry faces several near-term challenges, including uncertainty about the future of the virus and its effects on consumer sentiment, increasing labor and other COVID-related costs, and safety and infection containment worries, she added.

“Operators are under a lot of stress with squeezed margins associated with rising costs, as well as restrictions, in terms of revenue growth potential due to restricted move-ins or occupancy rates,” Mace said.

In other NIC Fall Conference news:

  • Approximately 1,100 people have registered for the conference, with about 60% of them signed up for the NIC Community Connector, a LinkedIn-style networking platform for capital providers, owners, operators, service providers and other stakeholders, NIC President and CEO Brian Jurutka said.
  • Jurutka said NIC expects to make a decision about its Spring Conference by the end of the year. The event could return as a full in-person event, could be turned into several smaller regional events or could be held virtually. Local regulations and attendee sentiment will guide the decision-making, he said. Ultimately, however, the organization hopes to return to in-person events by fall 2021, if not sooner. “Nothing beats in person,” Jurutka said. 
  • “ ‘Can You Just Give Us Something to Help Her?’ Off-Label Use of Antipsychotic Medication in Virginia Assisted Living Facilities,” a paper by Jenny Inker, MBA, Ph.D., Jennifer Pryor, Charlotte Arbogast, Maya Op De Beke, and Hamid Okhravi, M.D., published in the Seniors Housing & Care Journal, has been named Outstanding Research Paper for 2020, NIC Chief Operating Officer Chuck Harry said.
  • NIC’s Future Leaders Council oversight committee announced its selection for the 2023 class as well as the FLC leadership team for 2020-2021. Members contribute to NIC committees and task forces, develop volunteer leadership skills, and have opportunities to form professional relationships with NIC leaders:
    • The FLC Leadership Team is Chair Dana Scheppmann, senior vice president of Capital One Healthcare (FLC class of 2021), Vice Chair Courtney Nickels, senior vice president of Artemis Real Estate Partners (class of 2021), and Vice Chair Kari Onweller, vice president of Invesque (class of 2022).
    • FLC Class of 2023:
      • Craig Ahlstrom, chief operating officer and director of development, Avista Senior Living, Mesa, AZ.
      • Holly Ballarott, chief of staff, Brandywine Senior Living, Mt. Laurel, NJ.
      • Matthew Derrick, senior development director, Confluent Senior Living, Denver.
      • Audrey Griffin, relationship manager/assistant vice president, Wells Fargo, Washington, D.C.
      • Samantha Medred, director, Health Trust, Sarasota, FL.
      • Emma Rosen, director of acquisitions, RSF Partners, Dallas.
      • Michael Segal, managing director, Blueprint Healthcare Real Estate Advisors, Chicago.
      • Jennifer Wong, vice president of acquisitions, AEW Capital Management LP, Boston.