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72 is the new 65: 2011 Trends in Senior Living


Amy Belasen




By Amy Belasen  

Today’s seniors are working and living longer, and relying on technology more than ever before. They are seeking out Senior Living communities that provide whole-person wellness – setting the foundation for improvements and new trends in Senior Living communities this year and beyond.

Boomers Turn 65  

One in seven Americans is over the age of 65. The New York Times reported that the oldest Baby Boomer would be turning 65 on January 1, 2011, a milestone for the generation of 79 million who prided themselves on their youth and changing the world. The New York Times sites a Pew Research Center study’s findings, “For the next 19 years, about 10,000 people will cross that threshold [turn 65] every day.”  

The Senior Living industry is situated in a market that is set to explode in the next two decades as Boomers (26% of the US population) turn 65. By 2030, seniors will make up 18% of the US population. The survey suggests that Boomers are redefining old age--72 is the “new senior” and 65 isn’t quite so old. Growth will be gradual over the next several years. The average age of Assisted Living move-ins is 82, but Independent Living move-ins can be as young as age 70.  

The Growing Community  

Surveys targeting Senior Living community owners and operators indicate trending toward wellness, lifelong learning and green living options in 2011. More seniors are remaining in the workforce beyond age 65 due to financial need and/or a desire to continue learning and working. Seniors are motivated by earnings and a desire to preserve physical and mental stamina, and Senior Housing communities will find ways to embrace these desires.

Senior Living communities are expected to add new offerings for existing and new residents in 2011. Educational opportunities - especially web based - for current and new residents are expected to increase from 22% in 2010 to 69% in 2011. Wellness programs are expected to grow from 25% to 52% in 2011, according to Mather Lifeway’s Whole Person Wellness Survey. Senior Living communities will also find a greater need to provide residents with computers and Internet access as more seniors rely on these technologies to communicate and stay connected with friends, family and colleagues. These offerings give seniors a sense of independence despite a growing need for care. The survey also reveals the positive impact of wellness programs, from quality of life for residents to the image and positioning of the community.  

The topic of 2011 senior living trends was addressed in detail at the American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) Annual Meeting in January. Senior Living communities will continue to emphasize individualized care, and higher end properties should maintain success within the current model. As in other sectors of the real estate industry, Senior Housing communities were overbuilt, and occupancy rates dropped as a result. In the past few years, building of commercial senior living properties came to a halt and consolidation became a regular part of business for smaller companies unable to survive. Larger communities are likely to continue absorbing smaller, struggling communities into their portfolios.  

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) has shared similar predictions for 2011. Over the past few years, seniors made decisions to stay home or move in with their kids instead of moving into to Senior Housing communities due to the down economy. According to ALFA, the worst is behind us now - and the future looks bright. Rents and occupancy are on the rise and will continue to see gains in 2011. Communities that have persevered through tough economic times will be in top shape as the market improves in the next several years.  

Social Media, Technology & Marketing

We think that the Senior Living industry will continue to explore social media and technology in the coming year. While there are some advantages of incorporating social media and new technologies, thought leaders still need to determine how to implement these marketing trends.  

Websites are an excellent way to promote your business. Slideshows, interactive social conversations, and resident testimonials can showcase community offerings directly from your homepage. A targeted PPC-campaign helps your website show up closer to the top of Google listings, and a search engine optimized (SEO) website also improves your website’s position in search results.  

Based on the trends we’re seeing, Senior Living community owners should continue to focus on what their community can offer in terms of wellness, environmental concerns, education and technology. If they do, 2011 could be their best year yet.