The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is forging ahead, going deeper on data than ever before and introducing new educational and research initiatives amid a “great transformation” underway in the senior living industry, NIC President and CEO Ray Braun said Wednesday at the organization’s spring conference in San Diego.
“We need a drastic shift in how we think about older adults and their health,” Braun said.
NIC on Wednesday also unveiled the latest research findings from its ongoing work with NORC at the University of Chicago, showing that residents of senior living communities were about as safe from dying of Covid-19 as older adults living in non-congregate, residential housing, once vaccines were introduced. And residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) were “significantly safer” than a comparable population of older adults living in non-congregate housing, following the introduction of vaccines.
NIC and NORC will collaborate on further research, with the organizations announcing a lineup of in-depth studies, with the aim of giving more insight than ever before into key issues facing the industry to bring not only new investment, but also improve care for older adults across the care continuum.
The studies will be released in a phased fashion and cover these topics:
- Gauging older adult frailty as part of an activities of daily living (ADL) measurement
- Comparing health care outcomes in senior living compared to non-senior living properties
- Determining health care provider access to determine the impact of local health services and organized care in senior living compared to those outside senior living
- Investigating whether AL residents lived as long or longer within senior living communities versus individuals outside of the setting
These studies will help drive the integration of health care and senior living, a key to success in the industry moving forward, Braun said.
“They’re going to help keep pushing us forward towards integrating senior housing and health care,” Braun added. “Covid put the brakes on things for a little bit but the momentum is gaining once again and you’re going to see a lot of activity over the next year.”
Additionally, NIC will launch its NIC Academy module, offering boot camp-style courses and certificate programs to educate and train senior living professionals. The academy will be offered online and consist of six, eight-hour courses over a 90-day period, with the first program to be offered this fall.
NIC will also host an inaugural data summit in September.
“Personally, I’ve been away from the industry for about 12 years, so it’s been fun to get back into the industry and see many old friends and meet some new ones,” Braun told Senior Housing News. He took the reins at NIC in Oct. 2022. With a background in REIT leadership, Braun most recently was a dean at Bowling Green State University.
“My background in academia makes a good fit for NIC Academy,” he told SHN.
The future of NIC MAP Vision will be built on partnerships, according to NIC MAP Vision CEO Arick Morton. With the launch of a new property listings platform, NIC MAP Vision will look to drive capital and operator partnerships. The organization will also build partnerships with health care entities and senior living operators to spur innovation in the sectors.
“There’s an incredible opportunity for senior housing to get additional clinical and financial resources through partnering with the health care ecosystem,” Morton said.
Covid mortality report points to safety
The recent fruits of the NORC partnership already include an in-depth look at the middle market in senior living, with findings first published in 2019 and updated last year.
On Wednesday, NORC and NIC released a followup to earlier work focused on how well senior living residents fared during Covid-19, compared to older adults living in non-congregate settings.
Those in CCRCs were “significantly safer” from dying of Covid-19 than older adults living in non-congregate residential housing at large, the researchers found. Residents living in IL, AL and MC were as safe or nearly as safe once Covid-19 vaccines were made available.
The researchers suggested various potential explanations for the findings, including the level of vaccine availability and ease of administration for residents.
In the updated report, NORC also found that for pre-vaccine and post-vaccine periods, long-stay nursing home residents had a greater rate of excess mortality than residents of senior living communities.
NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace called the “headline finding” that CCRCs “were safer than ever.”
She also pointed to the breakthrough methodology that the researchers employed, which combined data from NIC MAP Vision with Medicare claims and administrative data.
“This study was different and is exciting because it actually took into account the health status and demographic differences, health care usage and geographic location of older adults,” Mace said.
Tim Mullaney contributed reporting to this article.