Sr. Housing Industry Aging Gracefully, But Not Without Challenges

Charles Davidson, a staff writer for Economy Matters published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, recently wrote an informative article entitled, Senior Housing Industry Aging Gracefully.

As Davidson notes, the number of Americans 75 and older will double by the early 2030s and then keep rising. By 2040, that group will number 45.7 million, as the overall population grows just 18 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

Senior living facilities’ target market—the 75-and-older cohort—is set to add on average just over a million people every year for nearly the next three decades. The baby boom generation—76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964—won’t hit its prime as senior living residents for several more years, says Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). While the target market starts younger, the average age of senior living residents today is about 84. So for now, the boomers’ influence is in guiding their parents’ choices about whether and when to move into senior housing.

Given that dynamic, a crucial statistic shaping senior housing demand is the “caregiver support ratio,” Burnham Mace says. Right now, there are about seven adult children—ages 45 to 64—for each person 80 and older, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. As boomers age, the 7-to-1 ratio will fall to 4-to-1 by 2030 and less than 3-to-1 by 2050, she says, likely sending more people into senior living facilities because there will be fewer adult children to care for them at home.

This all bodes well for the industry, but it is not without its challenges. Senior living is labor-intensive. Worker pay and benefits account for about 60 percent of expenses, according to NIC. As Donaldson states in the article, long-term success for the industry likely will hinge on the number of affluent seniors in the market for senior living and how well operators and owners adapt to changing resident demands and medical needs.

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