A group of older adults happily socializing

The need for socialization among older adults is helping overcome the uncertainty and decreased occupancy seen in senior living earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an article in MarketWatch.

Continuing care retirement community occupancy was 85.7% in the fourth quarter of 2021, up 0.3 percentage points from the third quarter and 1.4 percentage points from a pandemic low seen in the first two quarters of the year, according to data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. Additionally, the independent living, assisted living and memory care sectors in the fourth quarter all experienced the highest year-over-year growth in asking rates since NIC MAP began reporting the data in 2017.

“They’re moving there for a purpose,” Julie Sabag, director of sales and marketing at Bethesda, MD-based Fox Hill Residences, told MarketWatch. “It’s an opportunity for friendship.” Most people who are moving in are seeking “that social opportunity,” she added.

Anecdotally, MarketWatch reported, CCRCs and other senior living communities are attracting older adults who are looking to downsize their homes and also looking for the social aspects of congregate living with their peers.

A woman named Carol, who declined to give her last name, told the media outlet that senior living is like “being in a condo building except it has all the amenities.” In addition to an indoor pool and gym, concerts, lectures, trips and an advanced walking club, Carol said she likes the on-site library and the fact that other people are around. 

“I am a social being,” she told MarketWatch. “I didn’t really want to be isolated. But I can be if I want to.”

Adaptability and innovation have been “foundational” to the success over time of CCRCs, also known as life plan communities since 2015, and will be key to future success as well, according to specialty investment bank Ziegler. 

Four trends within the sector include a reduced emphasis on skilled nursing, contract diversification, rebranding and an increase in scale, Lisa McCracken, Ziegler’s director of senior living research and development, wrote in the company’s e-newsletter last month.
With the uptick in interest, the senior housing real estate market is poised for a good recovery after the challenges of operating during a pandemic, Michael Acton, managing director and head of research at AEW, said as part of NIC’s May Leadership Huddle.