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Senior Living CommunitiesActive Adult Proves Resilient in Pandemic, Providers Hope for Surge in Demand | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors

Active Adult Proves Resilient in Pandemic, Providers Hope for Surge in Demand | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the senior living industry, but for some active adult providers, the impact has been less severe — and they are hoping that translates into a surge of demand once case counts dwindle.

The resiliency of active adult, in terms of move-in velocity and sales leads, complicates the notion that needs-based demand has held up better and will return more quickly to the sector. And if rental active adult communities weather the pandemic well, recent investor interest in the sector could become even hotter.

There are various factors that combine to explain active adult’s performance. The product type tends to offer rates much lower than independent living communities, which can be a selling point amid an economic downturn caused by a pandemic.

Active adult residents are also typically more free to have visitors as they please, with many communities having private entrances in units. For older adults and their families, that distinction alone might be the deciding factor regarding whether to move in.

And while active adult communities don’t offer the same robust slate of services as independent living, many do still offer certain concierge services, resort-style amenities and some activities programming.

Whatever the reason, many active adult communities are performing relatively better than the more traditional independent living peers in their markets. And that has given confidence to operators in the space, including active adult newcomer Vitality Living, that demand will remain higher in the months and years ahead as aging baby boomers look to downsize.

“[Active adult] gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility, both in the lifestyle and financially, and I think that’s attractive,” Vitality Living Founder and CEO Chris Guay told Senior Housing News.

Active adult momentum

Throughout 2020, many active adult providers reported stronger census and higher move-in rates than their senior living counterparts. And that is evidenced in new data from Sherpa, a St. Louis-based firm offering a sales enablement platform, providing methodology, CRM technology and sales analytics to the senior living industry.

Active adult communities tracked by Sherpa saw an average of about four move-ins per month in 2020, with a tour-to-move-in ratio of about 30%, according to the latest data. By comparison, independent living communities also tracked by the firm saw about two move-ins per month in 2020, with a tour-to-move-in ratio of about 17%.

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Independent living communities saw more new leads per month in 2020, averaging 30 versus the active adult sectors’ 20, according to the data. But active adult communities spent more time on average in the “selling zone” with leads at an average of three hours and 45 minutes, versus one hour and 30 minutes for independent living communities.

And market conditions have seemingly become more favorable for active adult communities in more recent times, with move-ins trending closer to an average of 5.7 per month for active adult communities in the past six months.

Many of Sherpa’s clients in the active adult space are employing certain sales tactics to meet potential customers where they are now, such as porch visits, according to Sherpa President and Co-Founder Alex Fisher. Many of the firm’s clients also say that new residents are attracted to the product type’s lower acuity profile and its freedom of access for visitors.

“Prospects are shopping independent living and … finding that the population looks more like assisted living, and that it looks more like a health care play,” Fisher told SHN. “They’re drawn towards active adult because of the vibrancy that it promises.”

Active adult developers have previously said the pandemic is validating their market selection and development strategies and accelerating senior living trends that bode well for future demand.

Investors became more interested in active adult communities in the years leading up to the pandemic, but SHN’s recent 2021 Outlook survey with Lument suggests that interest may have shifted to the needs-based side of the continuum during the pandemic, even as the product type has held its own in the face of Covid-19 pressures.

Still, plenty of real estate players and investors remain bullish on the product type. That includes Livingston Street Capital, a private equity firm focused on commercial real estate that entered the active adult space about two years ago.

Currently, the firm has about 1,000 active adult and independent living units spread across six communities in addition to its industrial and office holdings. But the company is looking to grow that number in the months and years to come through acquisitions in primary and secondary markets throughout the U.S.

“We anticipate that robust demand for active adult and independent living will continue in the coming years,” Livingston Founder and CEO Peter Scola told Senior Housing News. “Coming out of the pandemic, we believe we’ll see an even deeper and more widespread focus on health, wellness and overall wellbeing. We anticipate the need for community balanced with independence will be stronger than ever.”

And no matter what happens in the coming months, active adult development is sure to remain a top trend in senior housing in 2021 and beyond.

Pivoting to active adult

Senior living providers have taken note of these favorable trends, and are preparing by growing and evolving their active adult offerings.

Vitality Living, for instance, is expanding its active adult portfolio with two communities: an active adult property with 86 patio homes that opened its first phase last year in Madison, Georgia; and a project to redevelop the Copeland Tower Suites hotel in Metairie, Louisiana, into Copeland Tower Living, an active adult community with 95 one-bedroom suites.

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