Three emerging trends could benefit residents and businesses alike.
By John Williams, Avanath Capital Management
An undeniable concern for seniors housing stakeholders is keeping residents at their properties healthy and well.
While the seniors housing industry was addressing health and wellness issues long before COVID-19 struck, the pandemic has intensified our focus on this topic. As we move through this crisis, many industry professionals have deepened their commitment to health and wellness in a variety of ways. To that end, we will see myriad new amenities at seniors housing communities that are aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle.
As an experienced investor in seniors housing assets across the country, Avanath Capital Management has seen firsthand the positive impact of providing health and wellness amenities at our properties. Older adults who are in good health are able to remain longer in their communities. Residents are able to live a more fulfilling life, and investors in these assets are better positioned to realize greater return on investment due to reduced turnover.
Below are some of the health and wellness trends we are seeing emerge at seniors housing communities.
Onsite health and wellness programs
Free onsite programs specifically designed to promote health and wellness among older residents are rising in popularity. Because these amenities are available where they live for no additional fee, residents are encouraged to participate in health screenings and attend events that the programs provide.
For example, in 2019 Avanath rolled out a health and wellness program called Activate. This free program focuses on increasing health awareness and education while promoting the advantages of an active lifestyle. The program combines vital health screenings and health education classes with wellness services including fitness and exercise classes, healthy cooking classes, and quarterly social events focused on encouraging resident interaction.
Activate was rolled out in two Maryland senior communities, and it has been so successful that we are planning to introduce it at additional Avanath seniors housing properties.
We expect to see more amenities like Activate at the property level as seniors housing stakeholders seek ways to make living a healthy lifestyle easier for residents to achieve.
Virtual gym memberships
While COVID-19 has forced many independent and at-residence gyms throughout the country to close in an effort to slow the virus’ spread, online fitness has risen as a result. These programs allow members to stream live workouts and download recorded workouts on their digital devices — enabling people to exercise virtually anywhere. What’s more, virtual gyms present an excellent opportunity for seniors housing owners to provide another health and fitness amenity to their residents.
To that end, Avanath recently partnered with Wellbeats Virtual Fitness, an on-demand fitness provider, to offer free virtual gym memberships to its 9,000-plus renters throughout the U.S. The program’s purpose is to alleviate residents’ inability to go to the gym during shelter-in-place mandates, as well as the cost of that membership for many who may be grappling with loss of income due to the pandemic.
As technology advances to meet shifting demands in the coronavirus era, property owners partnering with virtual gym memberships like Wellbeats are likely to become more popular at seniors housing communities.
Nutritious food options
With diet being increasingly recognized as a major factor in the health equation for people of all ages, seniors housing stakeholders are stepping up to offer a greater variety of nutritious dining choices for their residents.
Some of the ways that healthy food options are being introduced at seniors housing communities include hosting local farmer’s markets, the installation of Amazon food lockers to allow on-site cold storage of delivered groceries, and the introduction of community gardens at properties.
By allowing older adults to access fresh food at their place of residence, seniors housing owners and managers help residents maintain a healthful diet, which promotes their ongoing health and longevity at these properties.
Promoting health and wellness is an increasingly important priority for seniors housing stakeholders, particulary in the age of COVID-19. By providing onsite health and wellness programs, virtual gym memberships and nutritious food options, seniors housing owners and managers can help keep residents healthy and their properties performing at optimum levels far into the future.
John R. Williams is president and chief investment officer of Avanath Capital Management, a privately held, vertically integrated investment firm with a focus on workforce and affordable housing investments throughout the U.S.