The COVID-19 pandemic has not diminished prospective residents’ interest in moving to a senior living community, with on-site access to care and services and socialization among the main perceived benefits, according to a new market research survey.

Sage Age Strategies, a Pennsylvania-based marketing and consulting firm, contacted older adults who had demonstrated an interest in senior living before the pandemic to gauge how the public health crisis affected their views and potential decision to move to a senior living community.

Malissa Illiano, vice president of market research, said the data were “even more positive than previous studies done across the senior demographic.”

The survey, she said, showed that 61% of respondents said they still had some level of interest in moving to senior living, and 60% said they have not changed their minds about a move in the future. Of those, 38% said they plan to make the move within the next two years.

“Overall, being able to say there are still at least 40% of your database you can still work with and hopefully advance through the sales process and move on, or it hasn’t stopped everyone dead in their tracks — that type of message is what I pulled out as most important,” Illiano told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Twenty-one percent of participants, however, indicated they are no longer interested in moving to a senior living community.

The survey was electronically distributed to the leads databases of 15 Sage Age client-partners representing 32 communities in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. The survey covered topics including life during COVID-19, future plans, and life post-COVID-19. Approximately 80% of the 826 respondents were prospective residents aged 70 or more years, and 84% said they were most interested in independent living, assisted living (11%) and memory care (5%). 

When asked about the most challenging aspects of COVID-19, 30% said a lack of social interaction, 25% said general anxiety and 11% said boredom. The older adults’ biggest concerns about their current lifestyle included maintaining health and wellness (62%), being able to stay active (53%), maintaining their home (26%), and losing companionship and independence (23%).

Seventy-five percent said the biggest draw of senior living is on-site access to care and support, followed by socialization, dining and lifestyle / activities.

Financial considerations — over health and safety — were the most important consideration for most prospects. When asked about safety, 41% said they would feel safe or very safe living in a senior living community during a pandemic, with 27% saying they would not feel not safe at all. In addition, 14% said they would feel better living in a community versus their home through this pandemic.

Illiano said another surprising finding was that 52% of respondents indicated they have used video conferencing to socialize during the quarantine.

“A lot of clients came to us saying, ‘How do I approach sales now that I can’t bring people in?’ So we asked people how they were communicating during quarantine to understand what sorts of mediums they were using,” she said, adding that the data should encourage providers to give virtual tours a try or at least make it part of the communication process with prospective residents.

The vast majority of respondents said they were unsure of how they plan to proceed with the decision-making process regarding senior living options, making it essential for communities to help guide prospects and offer smart and safe options for the next steps in the sales process, according to the survey.

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