Baby Boomers Expect More From Independent Living Communities

Despite today’s high-cost environment continuing to put pressure on multifamily operators, the fundamental drivers of demand in the senior...

Source: “Baby Boomers Expect More From Independent Living Communities” by Adina Rogoz for Multi-Housing News

Despite today’s high-cost environment continuing to put pressure on multifamily operators, the fundamental drivers of demand in the senior housing sector remain strong, largely propelled by the increasing senior population, Revel Communities’ Ginni Ryan told Multi-Housing News.  

The demographic landscape of the sector is changing with the aging of the Baby Boomers generation, and the expectations of senior independent living residents are also shifting, becoming more sophisticated. From holistic wellness, personalized experiences and outdoor activities to active lifestyles and technology integration, seniors today look for more than just a place to live.

With 13 senior housing properties in its portfolio, Revel Communities—a division of the Wolff Co.—provides independent living options throughout the West Coast. The company’s leaders have more than seven decades of combined real estate experience, including in hospitality, so we asked its senior vice president of operations to expand on seniors’ evolving preferences and how Revel is responding to meet their ever-changing demands.

What exactly do residents want from their senior independent living arrangements today? Do they have any specific requests?

Ryan: Today, residents seek more than just accommodation; they desire vibrant communities that cater to their diverse needs and preferences. Specifically, residents are looking for senior independent living communities that offer a blend of comfort, personalization and engagement. Our residents tend to prioritize holistic wellness, personalized experiences and active lifestyles. They enjoy amenities and services that promote physical health, mental well-being, social connections, education and creativity.

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Tell us more about the amenities that are trending now in senior housing communities. How much have seniors’ preferences changed post-pandemic?

Ryan: The pandemic served as a catalyst for the integration of technology in senior housing communities, prompting a rapid shift toward on-demand telehealth and virtual fitness services. As residents sought ways to stay connected and prioritize their health and well-being while adhering to social distancing guidelines, it was critical that operators quickly implemented technology solutions to meet these evolving needs.

In addition to technology-driven innovations, outdoor activities are also trending amenities. For example, several of our communities—Revel Eagle, Revel Palm Desert and Revel Legacy—have onsite pickleball courts that have become incredibly popular among residents, especially as awareness of the sport has increased tremendously over the past few years.

How do your residents stay active throughout the day?

Ryan: From educational opportunities to dining experiences to community involvement initiatives, our residents enjoy a dynamic lifestyle. Fitness activities are a cornerstone of our community life. While each location offers a unique variety of activities based on factors such as climate, we offer a spectrum of group exercise classes and recreational outings across our entire network. These can range from yoga at Revel Palm Desert in California to hiking at Revel Province in Colorado.

Additionally, art and creativity thrive in our communities, with residents exploring various mediums and techniques in our art studios. Whether a lifelong artist or new to the creative scene, residents frequently produce breathtaking paintings, crafts and even statues in our studios. These activities, woven together, create a vibrant tapestry of life at Revel, enriched by the connections, experiences and shared moments that define our communities.

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Group Of Retired Seniors Attending Art Class In Community Centre With Teacher

How do you cultivate a sense of belonging and support socialization across your communities?

Ryan: Revel communities are designed to provide a communal experience, where residents live well and feel empowered as they age. We find it is crucial to not only foster a sense of community among the residents but also build a relationship between residents and our onsite teams.

One key program implemented at all 13 communities is our Resident Experience Program, which aims to build deeper connections between team members and residents while facilitating seamless transitions for new residents. Through the hospitality-inspired program, residents receive personalized attention and support from dedicated team members who guide them through the community experience, from initial contact to move-in and beyond. This tailored approach helps residents feel welcomed and supported as they acclimate to their new environment.

Additionally, we offer a wide range of social activities and events designed to cater to diverse interests and preferences, ensuring that there’s always something happening to engage residents and encourage socialization. Our community spaces, including lounges, gardens and dining areas, serve as vibrant hubs where residents can gather, connect and form meaningful relationships.

We also encourage residents to take an active role in shaping our community life by organizing clubs, interest groups and social committees themselves. This participatory approach allows residents to share their passions, talents and ideas while creating camaraderie within the community.

Revel’ properties are spread across the West Coast. Do you plan on expanding your portfolio to other areas?

Ryan: We are constantly evaluating opportunities for expansion into new markets on the West Coast and are currently contemplating the development of our first Revel community in Texas.

But both building and operating in today’s high-cost environment is very challenging. What would you say are the top difficulties you need to overcome and how do you do it? 

Ryan: In today’s high-cost environment, senior housing operators face a multitude of obstacles, including rising labor, utility and insurance costs. To navigate these challenges effectively, we are focused on team member experience and training to retain exceptional talent and increase operational productivity. We are also optimizing our energy efficiency protocols and our risk management programs.

Offsetting high operating costs is crucial in the current economic conditions. One effective strategy involves retaining and recruiting residents by offering innovative services and options to personalize experiences. One way we address this is through our tiered resident membership model, which provides residents with the flexibility to choose the tier that suits their lifestyle and budget. Residents appreciate the transparency in pricing and the flexibility this model affords them, ultimately having an impact on our occupancy rates and overall financial sustainability.

Do you expect current economic uncertainties to have a long-term effect on demand for senior independent living facilities?

Ryan: While some challenges persist, including slow inventory growth due to high interest rates and stringent financing conditions, we don’t expect the current economic volatility to significantly impact the long-term demand for senior independent living facilities. In fact, occupancy rates are projected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, according to data from the National Investment Center, indicating resilience and a promising outlook for the industry.

Despite economic uncertainties, the fundamental drivers of demand for senior housing remain strong, largely propelled by demographic trends. The percentage of the population aged 65 and older is anticipated to increase significantly in the coming decades, with the 85 and older demographic also expanding substantially, underscoring the growing demand for senior independent living communities. By embracing these shifts and tailoring offerings to meet the diverse needs of seniors, the industry can successfully navigate the current economic uncertainties.

Are there any other trends that senior housing operators should keep an eye on?

Ryan: We anticipate that the next big trend for senior housing will be experiential branding. Traditionally, the senior housing sector has been centered around providing essential services in a one-size-fits-all manner. This shift will now place an emphasis on customization, personalization and choice.

Revel Communities stands at the forefront of this movement, and we expect to see more senior housing communities following suit, offering tailored experiences that align with residents’ varying lifestyles and interests. This shift toward personalized, customer-centric approaches reflects a paradigm shift into prioritizing individuality and empowering residents.

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