With most older adults preferring to remain in their homes, according to studies by both AARP and MetLife Mature Market Institute, many senior living providers are seeing a need to expand their market by providing services outside of traditional settings. That’s not to say, however, that traditional senior living services aren’t still relevant.
The number of Americans aged 85 and older will more than triple to 19 million by 2050, while the 65+ crowd will more than double to over 88 million, projects U.S. Census data.
And according to the Center for Housing Policy’s 2012 Aging Report, the nation remains unprepared for the upcoming demand for supportive housing and services.
As of 2007, the number of Medicare-enrolled 85+ people living in supportive services communities or facilities was at 15% (compared to just 6% of the 65+ population). And while the percentage of the target market entering communities may remain small, the translated volume will be significant.
“The sheer number of individuals who will be in this 75+ category 10 and 20 years from now requires expansion of services and service options,” says Ken Curnes, Senior Vice President, Planning and Strategy, at advertising and marketing firm GlynnDevins.
The question becomes, however, ‘In what way?’ he says.
While organizations who are already expanding their services are “well-positioned” to meet consumers’ needs, “even if the percentages stay the same with perhaps only 6% of older adults choosing a community setting, this represents many more individuals because there will be many, many more older adults in this country,” says Curnes.
At any rate, figures citing an overwhelming desire among seniors to remain in their homes aren’t new, points out Justine Vogel, the president and CEO of The RiverWoods Company, a continuing care retirement community located in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Only a small percentage of age- and income-qualified people would prefer to move to a senior living community rather than stay in their home, Vogel concedes. But those who do move often find themselves “happier, healthier, and more engaged than folks who stay in their homes,” Vogel says.
“The community feeling that people have in their 30s and 40s when they are raising kids and living among people who are going through all of the same issues can be reborn in their 70s and 80s,” she says. “Generally this doesn’t happen in a [regular] housing development—people die, move away, or become more isolated—but it definitely happens in a continuing care retirement community.”
While it can be more cost-effective and preferable for some to receive care in their homes, it’s important to not overlook the population of healthy seniors in their 70s and 80s who welcome the opportunity to “really live—maybe with a service or two, maybe just with conveniences and a promise of care in the future to limit their risk,” Vogel continues.
In that sense, CCRCs can function like a preventive model that helps people stay healthy and engaged, while essentially having long-term care insurance in the event of future healthcare needs.
“I think this will always appeal to a portion of the population and, if as an industry we could do a better job of convincing people that a CCRC is not a “choice of last resort” but rather a “funky new chapter in their lives,” we would have a happier, healthier, more engaged senior population,” says Vogel.
Written by Alyssa Gerace