The Next Big Amenities in Senior Housing: Programming and Services

Health, socialization and transportation are top on seniors’ ‘want’ lists for a new home.

By John R. Williams, Avanath Capital Management

There is a renaissance underway in the seniors housing industry.

Today’s seniors are more active and engaged than ever before and are requesting amenities and services that aid in keeping them energetic, healthy and involved.

These amenities extend far beyond standard fitness centers or aerobics classes and incorporate programming and services that encourage healthier, dynamic lifestyles that allow residents to age in place.

This is important for investors and property owners to note. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that with people living longer and more active lives, and with more than 77 million baby boomers turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day, the United States is experiencing historic growth in the 65-plus demographic. In fact, by 2030, the entire baby boomer generation will be older than 65.

Residents in this age bracket will be downsizing and looking for communities that champion an active lifestyle, vitality, social interaction and independence.So what do these types of programs and services look like, and how do they aid in attracting and retaining residents?

Health and wellness services

There has certainly been a shift in health and wellness among all cohorts across the U.S. over the last decade. However, this topic has become increasingly important and top-of-mind for seniors.

As people age, health-related issues tend to crop up more frequently, and attention becomes focused on these issues. As a result, seniors are seeking amenities and services that aid in their well-being and improve longevity.

Seniors housing communities that provide health and wellness amenities are delivering an invaluable service to their residents, as well as helping to reduce turnover and improve occupancy rates at these communities. These services go beyond installing a gym or a swimming pool — reach out to residents with a variety of interactive offerings.

For example, last year Avanath launched its Activate health and wellness program at two affordable seniors housing communities: Vistas at Lake Largo in Upper Marlboro, Maryland; and Manor at Victor Park in Temple Hills, Maryland. It is a free, on-site health program geared toward bringing awareness about a healthy lifestyle for seniors while assisting residents with mitigating some of their health issues.

The program provides residents access to blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings and other preventative health services. These screenings are administered on-site at the apartment community.

As part of the program, Avanath transformed unused community space into a state-of-the-art wellness facility that includes screening rooms complete with exam tables, medical supplies, medical exam equipment and other necessary components that allow providers to administer health exams. Avanath partnered with University of Maryland Capital Region Health to administer the free health screenings to residents.

The Activate program also includes free classes on important wellness topics such as medication, cholesterol and diabetes management; fall prevention and balancing; and healthy eating habits and nutritional cooking.

Since its launch, about 35 percent of our residents at these two Maryland communities are participating in Activate, and Avanath has received testimonials from residents saying they feel an improvement in their health. Avanath plans to roll this program out into all of its seniors housing communities across the U.S.

This is simply one example of unique health and wellness amenities and services that are gaining momentum across the seniors housing industry over the next several years.

These programs offer a clear benefit to residents as they act as a preventive measure and educate residents on their health. There is also a clear benefit to investors and property owners as it promotes healthy living, allowing residents to age in place longer without having to move into assisted living.

Social programming

While social programming has taken off in traditional apartment communities, especially those that target millennials, it has also become a cornerstone of successful seniors housing communities.

As people age, social interaction and engagement become increasingly more important to keep individuals lively, stimulated and engaged.

In fact, social interaction promotes a stronger sense of community and friendship among residents. According to ElderCare Alliance, spending time with friends and family members can boost quality of life, including both physical and mental health. Social interaction, engagement, continued learning and relationships with friends and family are the pillars of health and well-being for aging adults.

Programming that promotes social interaction has become a life-changing amenity in seniors housing communities. Older residents seek opportunities to attend events in their own community where they can engage with other seniors, such as gardening days, bingo nights, coffee socials, ice cream socials, card-playing gatherings, musical performances, comedy performances and informational lectures, to name a few.

For example, Woodside Senior Apartments in Ontario, California, features a beautifully furnished community clubhouse where residents gather to participate in programming including arts and crafts, social events, movie showings and more.

Social programming attracts senior residents, enhances their lives and encourages them to remain at a community longer. If residents are invested with their neighbors, have established friendships and are actively enagaged, this impacts the bottom line for property owners and investors. Engaged residents will both stay longer and attract new residents.

Transportation services

One thing that remains extremely important among seniors is maintaining their independence.

While many seniors may have to stop driving as they age, they still appreciate being able to go to the grocery store, shops, restaurants and other places. As more seniors age in place in seniors housing communities, transportation services have become an increasingly vital amenity.

Many of Avanath’s communities provide residents with bus and shuttle services to local shopping areas several times per week. And, in urban settings, Avanath seeks out locations for its communities that are easily accessible to public transit.

With available transportation services and proximity to local buses and trains, seniors housing residents can maintain their sense of independence and enjoy a change of scenery, which also benefits their well-being.

A holistic approach to senior housing communities includes providing the amenities that today’s senior population is demanding. Modern amenities reflect the active and engaged lifestyle that so many of today’s seniors desire. Property owners who recognize this will be the most successful in 2020 and beyond.


John R. Williams is president and chief investment officer of Avanath Capital Management, a privately held investment firm with a focus on workforce and affordable housing investments throughout the United States.