Seniors Housing Forecast: Bigger Is Better — And Healthier

Senior Living|Thought Leadership|Trends|

Developers are seeing demand for larger residential units, fitness centers and outdoor spaces.

Everyone knows the saying ‘bigger is better,’ but a new angle since the start of the pandemic, especially in real estate development, is that bigger is healthier. In seniors housing, residential units, fitness centers and outdoor spaces are all becoming larger. While the trend of bigger units had picked up steam over the last six or seven years, there’s an even greater emphasis on accommodations today because of COVID-19 and the resulting need for social distancing by residents, REBusiness Online reported.

 “There’s awareness now about the possibility of a pandemic and the need to isolate. It’s changed the psychology around the unit,” Alan Moise, chief investment officer of Thrive, said during “The Development Outlook” panel at the eighth annual InterFace Seniors Housing Southeast conference.

Independent living residents are typically not willing to purchase a unit less than 800 square feet, according to Scott Gensler, vice president of business development with Erickson Senior Living. “The smallest unit size keeps getting larger,” he said. “We may say we’re building bigger units, but we’re actually just eliminating the smaller ones. By default, the average gets bigger.”

So many health-based decisions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been reactive, including in the seniors housing sector, but the proactive approach is, well, reactivating. The desire for an active, healthy lifestyle, a priority that has greatly expanded from Baby Boomers’ parents’ generation to their own, has spurred senior living developers to place a bigger emphasis on the fitness center amenity and exterior recreational offerings.

Every time I look at a plan, the fitness center gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” Gensler said.Then we open it, and it’s still not big enough.

As the health club amenity at senior living communities grows in size and prominence so are outdoor spaces. Those external amenities are not only key to making sure place-making is done right, they are also key open-air elements that bring people together in the right way, such as trails, green space and parks for Boomers and their grandkids.

Peachtree Hills Place, the first and only luxury 55+, equity-model continuing care retirement community in Atlanta’s prime Buckhead district, offers a long list of amenities, including a resort-style clubhouse and pool, central courtyard with regulation size croquet lawns, rooftop patio and open-air pavilion, community garden and a dog park. Another infinitee client, Sooner Station, a 188-unit first-class senior living community opening in early 2022 just minutes from the University of Oklahoma’s campus in Norman, also offers a variety of spacious health-based and outdoor amenities, including a fitness center, a courtyard pool, walking trails and a meditation garden.

“Of course, such changes must also be effectively marketed,” said Chelsea Schmidt, infinitee’s Senior Brand Manager who led Peachtree Hills Place’s Integrated Marketing Strategy that took home silver at the 2021 NAHB’s Best of 55+ Housing Awards. “To create a truly strategic and comprehensive senior living brand in today’s marketplace, you have to also layer in elements and best practices from other high-touch verticals including hospitality, technology and even luxury mainstays.

We’ve discussed before how Baby Boomers, 10,000 of whom will turn 65 every day between now and 2030, are redefining senior living development, putting greater importance on the aforementioned brand pieces and practices. It should be of little surprise that the generation that embraces bigger possibilities is asking for bigger space as well.


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