There’s a new leader in the senior living spectrum that’s receiving the most attention. Although most refer to this segment as active adult, age-restricted apartments, or independent living light, I’ve coined a much better term for this emerging product — Lifestyle Living.
Lifestyle living can best be described as unbundled independent living, or independent living without the inclusive dining and housekeeping services. As consumers are becoming more price conscious, unbundling the services provides potential residents with more flexibility and optionality in monthly pricing. It also provides more freedom and peace-of-mind for those seniors wanting to travel and dine-out at area restaurants. So, lifestyle living still maintains the design and programming concepts of traditional senior living, but without the construction, staffing, and operating expenses required to operate a community dining room and commercial kitchen.
Active adult is not a new concept and has been wildly popular in master planned communities catering to the recent retirees – primarily as fee simple home ownership. I’m sure most of you have heard of The Villages, Margaritaville, or even Sun City Center. These master planned communities revolve around a central clubhouse and include many amenities and socialization options targeted to the 55+ age population. The success has largely been due to these communities attracting residents seeking an upgraded social lifestyle, but with the ability to maintain their independence.
Age-restricted apartments are also not a new concept, as they’ve been around for decades. The concept behind this product has largely been due to reducing costs and required maintenance to residents living on a fixed income. Although most of these communities offer some amenities geared towards seniors, they typically do not offer the staffed programming and socialization options that attract so many residents to independent living.
So, why is this new lifestyle living product receiving so much attention? It’s largely due to two concepts: the average age for this type of resident is 72 (currently hitting the baby boomer demand spike), and independent living is now feeling much more like assisted living. In fact, due to the latest technologies and home healthcare options, the average age of an independent living resident has been steadily increasing – currently at 82. This provides a large gap to seniors wanting more socialization and lifestyle options, while maintaining their independence, and not yet ready to move into traditional senior living options. This age gap also matches what most stable lifestyle living communities report as the average length of stay, or 7-10 years. And, with this type of happy and consistent resident, these communities report much higher annual rent growth than any other real estate class.
However, I would be cautious for any developer that wants to quickly jump into this new product. It still takes a lot of specific knowledge and ‘know-how’ to stabilize these types of communities. Specifically, understanding the correct supply/demand relationship, competitive market, desired amenities, appropriate design layout, unit sizing, effective operations and staffing, specialized programming, and specific sales and marketing strategies. Also, it takes a patient investor, as absorption is much slower than traditional senior living or any other residential real estate product (around five units per month). If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me.
Scott McCorvie leverages 20 years of senior living real estate investment, development, and operations experience to improve a rapidly growing and changing market.