Life Plan Community Occupancy Still Rising in 2024 Despite Pressures

Life plan communities are continuing to see improvements in occupancy in 2024 even as certain headwinds continue to make life harder for the sector this year..

A recent report by investment bank Ziegler and NIC MAP Vision shows that occupancy among independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing units in life plan communities is up between 1.1% and 3.4% in 2024, compared to the same period last year. Memory care saw the highest uptick in occupancy with a 3.4% increase, followed by a 2.8% increase in assisted living occupancy and a 1.1% increase in independent living compared to 2023.

The data set published by Ziegler covers 1,164 nonprofit and for-profit entrance and rental life plan communities across 140 markets.


While independent living occupancy has improved the most since last year, the sector has had the slowest overall growth across the senior living continuum, according to Ziegler. Assisted living and memory care have seen the most consistent census gains on the other hand.

Overall, the senior living industry has seen ongoing occupancy gains over the last four years, with NIC MAP Vision reporting average industry occupancy at 85.6% in the first quarter of 2024, representing a gain of 7.8 percentage points over the industry’s low-occupancy trough of 77.8% in the second quarter of 2021.

Life plan communities have reported higher occupancy rates than other assisted living providers in recent years, even as the sector has a “deteriorating” outlook, according to Fitch Ratings, due to slowing real estate price growth and operational challenges. Earlier this year in March, the ratings agency changed its guidelines for life plan communities to “better reflect the risks” of the sector.


Occupancy across life plan communities varies by structure, whether entrance fee or rental, the report shows. LPCs with entrance fees reported 90.6% occupancy in the first quarter compared to 86.6% for rental LPCs. Nonprofit LPCs saw 89.9% occupancy in the first quarter compared to 87.2% for for-profit communities.

Skilled nursing has weighed on life plan community occupancy, and that has prompted operators to downsize or shutter skilled nursing units.

“The total skilled nursing inventory within LPCs continues to decline. So, while the occupancy continues to increase, the overall universe of skilled nursing beds is less than it was one, two and three years ago,” the report noted. “When comparing the 1Q 2024 LPC skilled nursing inventory to the 1Q 2023 skilled nursing inventory, there was a 1.6% decline in beds. That does not account for declines in the years’ prior.”

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