Senior Living Disruption Coming as Boomers Embrace Tech, Rely Less on Providers

Senior living is facing disruption on multiple fronts, but one trend in particular could be a game-changer: the increasing ability of older adults to remain independent and out of congregate housing until later in life.

This was a key finding of “The State of Senior Living: An Industry Grappling with Autonomy,” a new report from architecture firm Perkins Eastman. The survey gathered responses from about 200 industry professionals, mostly C-suite leaders with nonprofit providers.

Perkins Eastman has been conducting the survey on a biennial basis since 2015, but this was the first year that it included questions related to industry disruption. Specifically, Perkins Eastman identified four disruptive forces and asked respondents to rank them.


“Aging in the community — decentralized care and services” ranked as the biggest source of disruption, with 83% of respondents saying this is very or extremely impactful. Technology — ranging from artificial intelligence to virtual reality and home automation — came in next, with 76% of respondents ranking this as very or extremely impactful.

The other two disruptors were “third act,” which refers to alternative definitions of retirement, and paradigm shifts related to climate, politics and finance.

Chart showing survey responses about top causes of senior living disruption
Ranking the Causes of Senior Living Disruption (click to enlarge)

The disruptive forces are intertwined, the report authors noted. For instance, technology will enable more aging in the community and decentralized care. Indeed, nearly 80% of respondents said that tech that allows people to be autonomous in their care, such as grocery delivery or wearable monitors, will be extremely or very impactful.


“The striking insight from this survey is the interest in alternatives and options that enable the individual to control their own destiny and chart their own path, whether by accessing services in the broader community or creating communities that provide more autonomy and self-directed control of their housing and health care needs,” the authors wrote.

Preferences of aging baby boomers appear to be driving this disruption. Nearly 70% of respondents said that the ability to stay at home and access services would be the most important consideration for boomers as they look for supportive housing.

Still, that number is down somewhat from the 2017 version of the survey, when 75% of respondents said that this would be the boomers’ No. 1 priority. Meanwhile, location has gained in importance as a consideration.

Twenty-six percent of respondents for the 2019 survey said that boomers will be most concerned with being in proximity to an urban location or town center. That’s up from 19% in 2017.

Already, some senior living providers are adjusting their operations and development strategies to account for this expected disruption.

An increasing number of senior living communities are being built in mixed-use, intergenerational developments with easy access to amenities. And smart home tech is being implemented in senior living units to support autonomy and, providers hope, extend length of stay.

The Perkins Eastman survey covered a range of topics in addition to industry disruption. Other notable findings include:

— 83% of respondents believe that reimbursement/health care reform will drive convergence of senior living and health care, up from 74% in 2017

— 59% of respondents said that traditional entry-fee life plan communities are endangered, up from 52% in 2017

— 66% of respondents said that centers for healthy living, or whole-person wellness, are more attractive now than in the past, up from 56% in 2017

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