Senior Housing Linked to Increased Longevity, But ‘Wide Variation’ Separates Top Communities and Bottom

Living in communal senior housing is associated with greater longevity versus residing in the community at large – but there is notable variation between top-performing senior housing communities and those on the bottom.

These are among the newly released findings from research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and funded by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). The researchers examined outcomes for people who moved into a senior living community in 2017 and lived there through 2019 or until death, versus a matched group of peers dwelling outside of senior living communities.

“Our main takeaways include that senior housing residents experienced greater longevity than the non-congregate comparison group in the first two years following moving overall and across all property types,” Dianne Munevar, vice president of health care strategy at NORC, said at Tuesday’s press briefing at the NIC Spring Conference in Dallas.


Specifically, during the two-year period analyzed, senior housing residents had a mortality rate of 20.1% versus 22.4% for the comparison group.

“The mortality is two percentage points lower than in the community … it’s not 2%, it is actually two percentage points. So that’s quite a bit more, or quite a bit better,” said Munevar. “They live about 10 days longer than in the community.”

The data was more positive for residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), also known as life plan communities, who lived nearly two weeks longer than the peer group.


However, the researchers also found that residents in the top 25% of senior living communities tend to live more than two months longer than residents in the bottom 25% of communities.

More research is needed to discern what factors explain the “wide variation” across properties, according to Munevar. This point also was emphasized by Lisa McCracken, head of research and analytics at NIC.

“For those communities in the top quartiles, the delta between their numbers and the community-dwelling group is much larger, not just in days, but in months,” she told SHN. “The more we can learn about these communities and what may be driving these better outcomes, the more we as an industry can move the needle and make that gap even larger.”

McCracken also highlighted findings related to quality of life, such as that residents in the top 25% of communities spend nearly two weeks less time away from home than peers in the bottom 25% of communities.

“Living longer is one part of the conversation, but also living longer in the place you call home (versus more days spent in a hospital or in a nursing home perhaps recovering from an acute episode) is very meaningful as well,” she told SHN. “It is important to account for these findings as well in the context of mortality and living longer.”

Other findings included:

  • Senior housing residents received more rehab and preventive service days (8 days) versus the comparison group (4.4 days)
  • Senior housing residents received more home health care days (37.3 days) versus the comparison group (27.2 days)
  • Senior housing residents spent fewer days on antipsychotic medications (17.8 days) versus the comparison group (20.7 days)

“These points can and should be used to promote senior housing, and attract America’s older adults to the highest quality product they provide,” said Munevar.

This work follows other NORC/NIC research, including: an examination of senior living resident frailty and improvements in frailty related to residing in senior housing; an analysis of chronic conditions that senior living residents manage; and the groundbreaking “Forgotten Middle” study and subsequent work on the need for middle-market senior living options.

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