Providers Weigh In On Tobacco, Booze in Senior Living

As senior living communities increase efforts to promote resident and employee wellness, providers are balancing policies that both ban and permit tobacco and alcohol products. 

While the majority of providers say their communities are smoke-free, at the same time, many providers say their communities serve alcohol, noting the popularity of happy hour and other social events.

More than 75% of senior living communities are smoke-free, according to a recent Ziegler CFO Hotline survey. The survey by speciality investment bank Ziegler included responses from 152 chief financial officers nationwide.


Among those who indicated their community is smoke-free, the majority said the transition to a smoke-free campus took place in the last 10 years. For nearly 50%, the change occurred within the past five years.

Less than half (44%) said residents are not allowed to smoke anywhere on campus, including not in their units. However, three out of 10 said residents are able to smoke in their units. And 26% say they instruct residents to smoke in designated areas, away from common areas and outside of their units.

“Independent living residents can use E-cigarettes in their apartments,” said one CFO in a statement. “Staff can smoke in designated areas only, including their cars.”


Another CFO said the community is considering going smoke-free “due to many complaints from current residents.” 

For a small portion of providers, tobacco use also plays a role in hiring practices. 

“In recent years, a number of healthcare institutions have publicly implemented policies to not hire workers who smoke,” Ziegler says in a statement. Less than 5% of respondents said they have implemented such a policy, but 14% are considering it. 

Slightly more than 28% offer support services for both residents and staff looking to quit smoking, with 40.3% providing such support services for staff only. Nearly 31% offer no such programming, and only 0.7% offer such support for residents only.

When it comes to alcohol, communities are much more accepting.

More than 71% of respondents say they serve alcohol in their dining venues, social areas or at special events.

Sixty-one percent have been doing so for more than 10 years, and about 7% said serving alcohol was a new policy that went into effect within the last two years.

Faith-based organizations are less likely to serve alcohol than non-faith-based organizations, the survey finds.

Among faith-based organizations, 58.1% indicated that they serve alcohol in their venues, versus 92.3% of non-faith-based organizations who said the same.

One CFO said serving alcohol provides “a significant source of revenue and socialization in the community.” 

Some communities that do not serve alcohol also indicated a BYOB policy, with one CFO saying, “Residents can bring in their own wine to dinner.”

As part of one community’s expansion plans, a lounge is being considered to serve alcohol during happy hour events, another respondent said.

Access the report here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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