By Danette Opaczewski
As the senior living landscape undergoes transformative changes, one notable trend stands out: the shifting demographics in seniors housing.
On a national level, the U.S. Census Bureau national population predictions project the country’s population trends through 2100. Overall, the Census Bureau forecasts that older adults will make up a larger portion of the population in the coming years, with a median age expected to increase from 38.9 years in 2022 to 47.9 years in 2100.
Zooming into the senior demographic specifically, the percentage of the population age 65 and older is expected to increase in the coming decades, from 17.34 percent in 2022 to 22.77 percent in 2050. Additionally, the 85-and-older demographic will also make up a larger portion, increasing from 1.95 percent in 2022 to an anticipated 4.82 percent in 2050.
While many factors can affect these predictions, such as fertility rates, mortality rates and immigration levels, these forecasts paint an interesting picture of the future of the U.S. population and the potential demand for senior living communities. Understanding these trends now will provide the opportunity for the industry to shape policies and plan resources for future residents.
Younger residents, longer stays
In analyzing demographic trends in Revel Communities’ network of 13 independent living communities, a few similarities and key differences from the national forecasts arise. Some highlights, broken down by age group, include:
• The under-61 age group has remained relatively flat year-over-year, making up the smallest percentage of residents at 0.8 percent
• The 61-70 age group has grown from 3.6 percent in 2021 to 4.5 percent in 2023
• The 71-75 age group has remained relatively stable, showing slight growth from 8.4 percent in 2021 to 8.7 percent in 2023
• The 76-80 age group has increased year-over-year, from 16.3 percent in 2021, to 16.9 percent in 2022, to 18 percent in 2023
• The 81-85 age group has decreased over time, from 28.8 percent in 2021 to 27.3 percent in 2023
• The 86-90 age group has decreased slightly from 23.3 percent in 2021 to 22.5 percent in 2023
• The 91-95 age group has decreased steadily from 15.7 percent in 2021 to 11.7 percent in 2023
• The over-95 age group has remained relatively flat year-over-year, though it did see a small decrease from 2.1 percent to 1.7 percent from 2021 to present
One noteworthy observation from this data set is the notable trend of Revel Communities’ residents skewing younger overall, with increases across age groups from 61 to 80. Additionally, all age groups from 81 to 95+ saw a marked decrease in percentages over the three years analyzed, showcasing a divergence from the national predictions.
This could highlight a growing preference for a more active and engaged lifestyle earlier in retirement, or seeking the benefits of community living, social engagement and wellness programs at a younger age. The trend could also be indicative of changing perceptions about the right time to transition to independent living.
Consequently, as residents skew younger, we anticipate that seniors will spend more time at their independent living communities, potentially reshaping the traditional retirement timeline.
Regional variations in demographic trends
It is essential to recognize that demographic trends can vary significantly by region. The interplay of local cultures, economic factors, and geographic preferences contributes to diverse patterns in the age distribution of residents.
On the West Coast, where Revel Communities has a substantial presence, the influence of a more active and health-conscious lifestyle may contribute to the observed increase in younger residents. The emphasis on outdoor activities, wellness programs and a vibrant social scene aligns with the preferences of individuals in the 61-70 age group seeking an enriching and dynamic retirement experience.
In contrast, inland regions may witness different demographic dynamics. Factors such as affordability, climate and cultural preferences can influence the age distribution of independent living residents, which further highlights the importance of tailoring offerings to meet the diverse needs and expectations of seniors based on their location.
Elevating resident experience through personalization
The evolving demographics within the seniors housing sector have far-reaching implications for industry stakeholders and operators, prompting industry leaders to evaluate strategies and focus on key aspects that define the resident experience, personalization and resident longevity.
With younger residents joining senior living communities and the expectation of longer stays, the focus on resident experiences becomes paramount. A one-size-fits-all approach may no longer suffice, and providers must offer customizable services and amenities that cater to a wide range of preferences. Personalized focus on wellness, diverse dining options, salon and spa services, transportation options, special events and flexible activity schedules can contribute to a more enriching and satisfying living experience for residents.
The recent surge in technological advancements lends itself well to a more tailored living experience. Telehealth services have become increasingly prevalent, allowing residents to access medical care from the comfort of their homes and reducing the need for frequent doctor visits or in-home health aids. Similarly, on-demand physical therapy and fitness classes — such as Mirror, Apple Fitness or Peloton — enable residents to prioritize their health and well-being conveniently.
Incorporating innovative technologies and customizable personal services into the amenity suite not only enhances accessibility but also fosters a sense of independence and control over one’s lifestyle choices.
Developing to meet demand
As a higher percentage of the U.S. population transitions into seniors housing, owners must also keep a close eye on occupancy rates and development needs to ensure demand for this asset class is being met.
In 2022, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) released data showcasing a high demand for seniors housing but slow inventory growth due to high interest rates. Consequently, this dynamic contributed to an upswing in occupancy rates.
The evolving demographics in seniors housing offer a glimpse into the dynamic nature of the senior living landscape. The trends of younger residents, regional variations, increased demand for housing and the changing age distribution underscore the need for adaptability and development within the industry.
As the seniors housing sector grapples with these shifts, a renewed focus on resident experiences, personalization and longevity becomes imperative. By embracing these changes and tailoring offerings to meet the diverse needs of seniors, the industry can pave the way for a more vibrant and fulfilling resident experience across the spectrum of ages.
Danette Opaczewski is chief operations officer and executive vice president of resident experience with Revel Communities. She holds more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality and real estate industries. Danette joined the seniors housing industry in 2020 and is focused on ensuring that Revel communities perform at the highest level, with an emphasis on customer experience, leading-edge branding, design and overall investment goals.