Innovation in Seniors Housing and Care: Building for Today’s Transitioning Adults

Understanding the desires of the next generation of transitioning seniors will be the key to success as the seniors housing and care industry evolves. As such, it is up to developers and operators to create innovative senior living products that will appeal to the baby boomer generation.

The average age of a senior living resident today is approximately 84 years old. This reflects a trend where seniors are staying at home longer than in previous eras, either by receiving home care or caring for themselves. But what does this mean for the seniors housing and care industry? By staying home longer and delaying moving into a seniors housing and care community, seniors actually may age faster, as the potential for missed medical appointments, lagging nutrition, and isolation are serious health risks for seniors. In contrast, the communal setting offered at independent living (IL), assisted living (AL), and memory care (MC) facilities strives to engage, motivate and connect with seniors so that they can live their best life.

The core challenge facing operators is that the product available today does not always entice seniors to want to move in, especially at a younger age. When seniors choose to stay at home when they might be better off in a facility, their physical and cognitive frailties could become impaired. Because someone maybe is moving in later in life than they should, a prospective AL candidate actually may be more appropriate for MC. The same can be said regarding the transition from an IL to an AL facility. 

As owners and operators are looking for ways to break this cycle, more and more are focusing on creating an IL environment that introduces seniors to the communal living setting as soon as possible. When doing so, some of the key factors owners and operators should focus on are location, activities, and technology. 

Theme-Based Products

The approach of building a theme-based product that targets certain interests and demographics has shown significant success in recent years. One example is Legends Landing, which is an IL, AL and MC community that caters to football aficionados and former NFL players. The facility has been coined “the Disneyland for football.” This community features oversized furniture, partnerships with the NFL, museums, football-themed attractions, and an emphasis on fitness and well-being. By creating a product that goes after a specific market, and by providing timeless amenities that remind transitioning seniors of their early years, developers are successfully innovating their product for the baby boomer generation.

Another great example of targeted senior housing is the Margaritaville-themed communities along the Southeast. Targeting seniors aged 55 and up, the communities feature independent homes for its residents. The full service communities feature resort-quality pools, work-out centers, social rooms, Margaritaville-themed restaurants, as well as specialized entertainment venues. According to Forbes, the community coming online in Daytona Beach had more than 10,000 pre-applications within the first two weeks. This serves as a clear example that, when you build the right product in the right market, the efforts will prove fruitful. 

Successfully enticing seniors into IL communities earlier, rather than later, allows them to become open to the idea of communal living at a younger age. By doing so, they may then appreciate the benefits of being in a fun and engaging environment and spread the word among their peers. If this approach gains momentum, it could become the new norm, which undoubtedly would be a welcome development for the seniors housing and care industry.

When considering innovative product types, successful owners, operators, and developers must remember that it is not only about the product. Location is a huge factor that can motivate new tenants. In addition, from a development standpoint, it can be more cost effective to revitalize and renovate facilities in premier downtown locations, as opposed to building from the ground up in neighboring towns. Seniors are drawn to the neighborhoods that they grew up in and what is familiar to them. As such, a brand new luxury facility in a suburb they never called home may not have the appeal of a renovated facility located in the city they love.

Financing Options

In order to entice residents to move into IL facilities earlier, which jump-starts the whole continuum process, seniors housing and care products need to be targeted and marketable. On a related note, there needs to be options available to help provide financing for these facilities. With respect to IL, there are several government agencies that assist with these types of projects. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and certain U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs can be permanent financing solutions for developers after construction and stabilization is complete. When it comes to AL and MC, the lending process is more fluid, as these are products that lenders regularly underwrite. For AL and MC facilities, HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are all viable permanent financing options post stabilization, acquisition or at an opportune time in relation to the interest rate environment. 

As the industry evolves and developers make a push to create a product for today’s transitioning adults, lenders and government agencies will need to evolve as well in order to create opportunities for these products to be successful. 

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