The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College partnered with the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry, the Assisted Living Federation of America and the American Seniors Housing Association to produce a series of four papers on the profile and economic circumstances of older adults in private pay living arrangements. The papers are based on a survey, conducted in spring 2011, of residents in assisted living (AL), independent living (IL), or properties that offer both (IL/AL). The response of 10.2 percent of the 25,000 surveyed residents provides adequate differentiation by property type and region.
The first paper in the series describes the survey methodology and provides summary statistics and a respondent profile. The survey updates previous work regarding resident profile and expands on it by addressing the financial situation of the respondents.
Residents of senior housing facilities are older now than they used to be. The average age of respondents is 86 years, regardless of setting, with women slightly older than men. The median age of 87 suggests that more residents are older than the mean, with the presence of younger residents skewing the results. Previous surveys from ALFA (1998) and NIC (1998) reported an average age in the 80 to 85 range. Women outnumber men in all living environments and especially AL, where women form 75 percent of the population. An overwhelming majority of respondents reported themselves as white – ranging from 92 percent in freestanding IL to 96.3 percent for freestanding AL. Respondents’ level of education exceeds that of the population overall, with 23 to 41 percent having earned a college degree, depending on property type. For comparison, 20 percent of older adults age 65 and better in the country as a whole has a college degree.
The paper provides short answer responses to the question, “Why do you think you will move out?” Financial reasons dominated the responses, with residents citing high cost and ongoing fee and rent increases as primary motivating factors. Service concerns came up, with quality of food, care and maintenance listed as motivating factors. Deteriorating health, such as needing help with dementia, was also cited as a potential reason to move.
The profile of the typical private pay resident is an 86-year-old white female with a college degree. This has implications for the seniors housing industry in the US as the proportion of older adults who are white continues to decrease. The qualitative data on reasons to move out, combined with the predominantly white population in the private pay sector, suggests that the industry will need to develop living environments that appeal to a broader segment of the population, including African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American older adults. In addition, the sample suggests that the industry has not been successful at reaching into the lower or even middle part of the socioeconomic range. An operator that can figure out how to provide excellent service and accommodation at a reasonable price will likely generate a strong customer base.
The associated papers draw further conclusions:
Coe NB and Wu AY. “Financial Well-Being of Residents in Seniors Housing and Care Communities: Evidence from the Residents Financial Survey.” Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2012.
Coe NB and Wu AY. “Costs and Concerns Among Residents in Seniors Housing and Care Communities: Evidence from the Residents Financial Survey.” Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2012.
Coe NB and Wu AY. “Geographic Mobility Among Residents in Seniors Housing and Care Communities: Evidence from the Residents Financial Survey.” Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2012.