55+ Housing is Helping the Economy

There are many factors driving the housing industry and senior living is a main one.

By Scott McCourtney

With the housing recovery creating a change in what types of homes are being built, senior living seems to be doing the same. Multifamily home building is one of the main leaders for the recovery and with that are new senior living facilities for the new generation of retirees. Along with the recent demographic changes for new residents within the senior living communities, senior living providers are shifting the way they use care within the facilities to accommodate emerging needs along with trouble of financing.

Assisted living is a very segmented environment, in a clinical sense. Residents, about a little more than half the time, have their own physicians along with access to a variety of other healthcare providers including therapy, dental, vision, podiatry, pharmacy, home health, and hospice. A majority of assisted living residents are female, 85 or older, and need help with at least one activity of daily living (ADL), according to the CDC’s 2010 National Survey of Residential Care FacilitiesLink Icon. Nearly 40 percent need help with three or more ADLs.

“Back in the day, we used to say our industry was hospitality with healthcare. I would say we’re becoming healthcare with hospitality,” says Gina D’Angelo, RN, Vice President of health services at assisted independent, and memory care provider for Chelsea Senior Living. D’Angelo is also the Chair of ALFA’s Clinical Quality Executive Roundtable in a statement to seniorhousingnews.com.

Some facilities with full-time care model a plan that includes nurses onsite 24/7, and residents shape staffing patterns. Incoming residents go through a “solid” assessment that gathers information from family members and doctors. Places like this can also have residents that are in good health and need no 24/7 medical attention. Therefore, builders and developers need to design for the dependent retiree and the nondependent-free-roaming retiree.

“…one of the most important parts of an integration [is the idea of] an open kitchen within the living area. This group of buyers is quite social, and such a layout ensures that no one is isolated away from the rest of the group. Another overarching trend is that of universal design. People in this age group want a user-friendly, low-maintenance home – one they can live in as long and as comfortably as possible. The 50+ Council encourages that approach to design, and highlights it every year at the International Builders Show,” said Robert H. Karen, 2013 Chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council.

As much as senior living construction and sales is still down from the housing boom of the turn of the century, market data has shown a turn around since 2010 according to the NAHB 55+ Housing market Index. Paul Emrath, Vice President of survey and housing policy research at the NAHB, pointed to expected growth in the senior living market in the coming years. According to the NAHB long-term forecast, 55+ households currently make up 40.2 percent of the total market, that percentage is expected to grow to 42 percent by 2014 and then to 44.8 percent by 2019.

The only aspect that seems to be holding up the process is one of the most important, financing. NAHB surveys of builders have overwhelmingly indicated that financing for projects continues to get harder. While many potential buyers struggle to find financing, Emrath points out that only 42.7 percent of buyers of aged-qualified communities take out a mortgage, according to the 2009 American Housing Survey conducted by the Census Bureau and HUD. Although 54.6 percent of buyers in these communities count on the sale of a previous home to finance the down payment on their new home, that number has been dropping and is down significantly from 2005, when 100 percent of these buyers relied on the sale of an existing home.

Scott McCourtney is an assistant editor for 50+ Builder magazine. He may be contacted at smccourtney@penpubinc.com

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