Caregiver pushing resident in a wheelchair

Social connections, technology and access to the outdoors are key to winning over prospective residents to senior living, according to a new lifestyle survey of older adults.

Among a group of 1,191 midlife and older adults who shared their opinions with the International Council on Active Aging on senior living options, overall, 65% of respondents reported they are satisfied with their home and not interested in moving. ICAA CEO Colin Milner said the opportunity for operators and providers lies in the 29% of individuals who reported being “just satisfied” or “dissatisfied.”

“Even if you got a portion of that, we would grow the industry significantly,” Milner told McKnight’s Senior Living. Even among those who reported no interest in moving, 19% said they would still be open to moving if they developed a health issue, he pointed out.

Milner’s advice to operators is to consider what people are looking for in a senior living community. According to the survey, 67% said they see senior living communities as safe places to live. Respondents said they are looking to build social connections (57%) and communities that can offer a meaningful and engaging lifestyle (51%).

“Focus on what people are looking for, especially in the midst of a pandemic — that’s to be able to connect with family or friends, and to be engaged,” Milner said, adding that individuals who view senior living as safe have more positive attitudes about other aspects of senior living. “Three out of four people are saying these are places I can come and build social connections. If someone sees you as a safe place to be, they also see you in a positive life for other elements as well,” he said.

On the flip side, the most common concern about senior living was the expense; 38% reported seeing it as too expensive. But another way to look at that response, Milner said, is that 62% do not see senior living communities as too expensive, which he called “a refreshing thought.” 

The survey also found that older adults have changed their priorities as a result of the pandemic, with more than half of participants reporting making distinct changes in their priorities, Milner said. Those priorities include meeting social and health needs as well as trying new things. Respondents also reported wanting to walk outside more and to continue using technology they adopted during the pandemic.

Milner cited a recent Accenture consumer attitudes survey that found that consumers are willing to leave brands that don’t recognize those new priorities, and they are willing to pay more for brands that acknowledge those priorities.

“The question becomes, if you are a provider, what’s that change, and how do I address that change to remain relevant?” Milner said. “That change is, people want to connect more with friends, connect more with family, commit more to health and, most interestingly, 40% want to experience things they’ve never done before. That’s a direct correlation with the pandemic making people think about their mortality.”

The ICAA Lifestyle Survey of Older Adults is available on the ICAA website.