5 Senior Living Market Trends in 2024 – What to Expect and How to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Published on November 17, 2023 by Sharon Morrisette
So far, 2023 has been a significant year for the senior living sector, characterized by transformative changes and innovative approaches. It has given rise to a growing understanding of the evolving needs and aspirations of the aging population, along with strategic responses to evolving market dynamics.
Now, with the senior living market set for rapid expansion, we’re witnessing a shift towards more resident-centric models, supported by technological integration, and a firm focus on holistic wellness.
These developments come at a time when senior living providers are adapting to economic pressures and exploring new operational efficiencies. The trends we’ve seen emerging this year are reshaping the way senior living communities function and redefining the overall experience of aging.
In this article, we’ll delve into five key trends that are predicted to define the senior living market in 2024. Most importantly, we’ll show you how your senior living community can prepare for them and stay ahead of the curve.
Trend 1: Increasing occupancy rates
A positive trend in occupancy rates signaled a rebound in 2023 from the lows experienced during the pandemic – and this looks set to continue in 2024.
In the NIC MAP Primary Markets, occupancy rates have risen to 84.9% as of October 2023, a notable increase from the pandemic low of 77.8% in June 2021. This improvement indicates a steady recovery, although it still lags slightly behind the pre-pandemic level of 87.1%.
In the NIC MAP Secondary Markets, the recovery is even more pronounced. Occupancy rates here reached 86.7% by October 2023, almost fully recovering to the pre-pandemic benchmark. This marks an impressive climb from the low point in March 2021 and suggests a quicker bounce-back in these markets compared to the primary markets.
Breaking down by property type, assisted living (AL) properties are showing a relatively faster recovery than independent living (IL) communities. In the primary markets, AL properties have an occupancy rate of 83.2%, nearing the pre-pandemic levels, whereas IL properties are still catching up. This trend reflects the growing demand for assisted living communities, highlighting their critical role in the senior living sector.
How you can stay ahead of the curve
Senior living and home care businesses are in a prime position to use this upward trend to their advantage. The challenges lie in prioritizing the delivery of high-quality, home- and community-based services (HCBS) that meet the evolving needs of seniors and effectively reaching and serving the growing market.
By delivering consistently high-quality care services you can clearly demonstrate your commitment to the well-being and satisfaction of your residents. This builds trust and a positive reputation in your community, retaining existing residents, attracting new clients, and setting the stage for long-term success.
Technology tools, like Smartcare Software, will be key in helping senior living communities deliver consistently exceptional home- and community-based services throughout 2024 and beyond, as their occupancy rates increase.
Of course, in today’s competitive senior living market, it isn’t enough to just deliver exceptional HCBS in your community… you also have to make sure prospective clients know about it!
Smartcare’s marketing and CRM platform offers a tailored solution, enabling you to spread the word, monitor lead sources, transform more referrals into actual clients, and deepen your understanding of revenue channels. It also integrates with many senior living platforms, such as PointClickCare, making it possible to accelerate the referral process.
Smartcare Software empowers senior care communities to easily navigate the sales journey, seamlessly aligning with your specific needs for growth management, and ensuring you’re well-placed to capitalize on resurging occupancy rates.
Trend 2: A shift toward wellness-oriented communities
Senior living communities are increasingly shifting towards a wellness-centric approach, moving beyond the traditional care-first model to promoting overall well-being for all residents. This trend is evidenced by the prediction from the International Council on Active Aging, which estimates that 59% of senior living communities will be based on a wellness lifestyle by the end of 2023.
Wellness and fitness programs are becoming integral to this new model. Senior living communities are introducing a range of activities designed to encourage physical activity and health consciousness among residents. From yoga and fitness classes to advanced fitness centers, these programs aim to promote active and healthier lifestyles.
Another significant aspect is the focus on mental health and social well-being. Senior living communities are increasingly adopting intergenerational programs that foster social interactions and connections across different age groups as well as providing companionship care to reduce isolation and loneliness.
The emphasis on physical, mental, and social well-being for an all-round better quality of life is in response to the growing demand for health-focused living among the aging population. As a result, providers integrating wellness-based models and diversifying their range of home- and community-based care services to improve residents’ well-being will set the gold standard for the market in 2024.
How you can stay ahead of the curve
Central to this approach is the creation of personalized care plans that focus on each individual’s unique health and well-being needs, ensuring targeted, effective home- and community-based care delivery.
Technology, like Smartcare’s detailed care plan management and scheduling tools, can help you facilitate the development of specialized care regimes tailored to each of your resident’s specific requirements and achieve better outcomes and reduce hospital readmission rates.
These plans are dynamically updated and made accessible to caregivers, residents, and their families through Smartcare’s Client and Family Portal. This not only ensures that the latest information is always at hand but also that your residents remain actively engaged and involved in their care plans.
In addition, Smartcare Software supports senior living communities looking to expand their service lines and integrate new wellness options, to provide more of a continuum of care for their residents in 2024. Smartcare’s ERP solution provides all the tools needed to successfully implement and manage an extended range of care service options, including hiring and retaining new staff, care coordination, reporting, secure communication, resident engagement, flexible scheduling, and much more.
Trend 3: Economic headwinds
In 2022-2023, senior living operators faced formidable economic challenges, with the core personal consumption expenditures price index rising by 5.1% over 12 months. This inflation compressed operating margins, making it harder for operators to balance rising costs against the need to maintain affordable fees for residents.
This trend looks set to continue into 2024, and underscores a crucial decision point for senior care operators: balancing immediate financial pressures against long-term investments in technology that can drive efficiency and enhance care quality.
Embracing technology not as a discretionary expense, but as a strategic necessity, may be the key to navigating ongoing economic challenges.
How you can stay ahead of the curve
There are numerous strategies that a business can adopt to navigate economic challenges and drive long-term success, from market penetration and strategic partnerships to market development and acquisitions.
For senior living communities, creating multiple sustainable service lines (and selling them to a familiar customer base) is a relatively low-risk growth strategy and can be a great way to guarantee your community’s stability in 2024 and beyond. Finding the right tech partner will be key in supporting this strategy.
Experts emphasize that while budgets are tight, prioritizing technology is going to be a game-changer. Among its wide range of applications, the right software platform can significantly reduce costs by helping to manage overall operations more efficiently, improving outcomes and boosting resident satisfaction, simplifying billing and payroll, and even addressing staffing challenges.
The right software should also, ideally, integrate with your existing senior living platform and allow for seamless additions of new service lines as and when you look to expand.
The challenge really lies in adopting technologies that will improve the quality of life for your senior residents while streamlining care delivery processes – as well as delivering a good return on investment.
Smartcare Software provides a solution that closely aligns with all of the above needs. In addition to its many offerings, Smartcare includes Business Intelligence (BI) tools that enable communities to analyze trends and make data-driven decisions – invaluable for those aiming to optimize their operations in the face of economic challenges. By monitoring progress in real-time and quickly addressing any issues, you can confidently face economic headwinds – streamlining your operations and maintaining high resident satisfaction.
Trend 4: Market consolidations
Last year, the senior living market saw significant consolidation, marked by numerous acquisitions and partnerships. This trend was reflected in a 17% increase in acquisitions from 2021, with 527 deals, although total spending on these transactions decreased compared to the previous year.
Moreover, investor interest in the senior living sector is growing, with some experts believing this will only increase through 2024 and beyond.
However, it’s important to note that the approach to deals has become more selective, influenced by rising interest rates and cost inflation.
Operational impacts of this consolidation included increased labor costs and resident fees. Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care operators raised fees from between 5.3%–5.9% in the first quarter of 2023. This trend has been accelerating rapidly and looks set to continue well into 2024.
However, these fee hikes did not fully offset the rising labor and operational costs, leading to challenges in new development and increased operational expenses.
How you can stay ahead of the curve
Faced with widespread consolidation, many communities must tackle unique challenges such as integrating multiple communities, managing rising operational costs, and maintaining consistent care quality across different locations. Efficient management and strategic adaptation become crucial in this environment.
Smartcare Software offers essential tools for communities navigating these challenges.
Designed to meet the needs of franchises, its centralized, multi-site management system (with enterprise KPI dashboards) ensures uniform standards of care and operational efficiency. This system allows for seamless adaptation to various operational models – crucial for maintaining service quality during mergers or expansion.
Trend 5: Technology supporting a continuum of care
The increasing emphasis on offering older adults a series of living options (with various levels of support) within one senior living community is a notable trend that looks set to continue. As we’ve previously mentioned, technology is playing (and will continue to play) a pivotal role.
This preventative approach integrates a full continuum of senior care services catering to the broader needs and desires of today’s seniors. As health and personal needs change, the level of support and care is adjusted to meet the residents’ progressive needs, rather than them having to move to a higher-level-of-care community.
This, along with keeping residents engaged and socially active, is going to provide senior living communities with better health outcomes and residents that stay with them well into the future.
How you can stay ahead of the curve
Technology tools are continually improving many aspects of senior living, helping providers to streamline operational efficiency, personalize resident care plans, boost engagement, retain staff, and optimize service delivery.
With the arrival of virtual assistants and chatbots, wearable devices and sensors, medication reminders, and robotics, smart senior living providers are also looking to invest in technology that can support their move towards preventative care and a more robust continuum of care for their residents.
There’s little doubt technology is becoming an increasingly crucial asset for senior living communities – not only for running a more efficient and effective senior living community, but also for enhancing on-demand services, boosting residents’ wellness and quality of life, and securing the success of their 2024 goals.
Time to get a head start!
Smartcare Software: the secret sauce for supporting residents in senior living communities
As the senior living sector continues to evolve through 2024, Smartcare is ready with the latest tech innovations to help support and scale your community.
As an all-encompassing enterprise management solution, the Smartcare platform brings everything you need to run your entire home- and community-based service lines efficiently and effectively into one system, connecting all areas of your community with one another to create a unified strategy for operational excellence and continuous improvement.
Its capabilities in managing and analyzing data (like payroll analytics and client metrics) combined with user-friendly scheduling and care management tools, make it an invaluable asset for senior living communities adapting to these changes. By leveraging Smartcare, you can offer the kind of responsive, high-quality care services that improve the well-being of your residents through the continuum of care and secure their long-term, happy future in your community.
As we look towards 2024 and beyond, it’s clear that the senior living sector is at a pivotal point. The successful communities will be those that don’t just adapt to these trends but also embrace technologies that can leverage them. Smartcare serves as more than just a useful tool; it’s a trusted partner in your journey toward a more innovative, efficient, and compassionate future in senior care.
Ready to transform your senior living community by providing home- and community-based services with Smartcare?