Senior Housing in the United States

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Senior housing is a term that is used by people in the real estate industry to indicate various types of housing that are specifically catered toward senior citizens or the elderly. Because seniors would have a different quality of living compared to younger people, the housing they need requires services and amenities that will be beneficial in making various activities like climbing stairs, cooking food, or taking a bath much easier for them to do.

In addition, the pricing of the types of housing for seniors in the United States would also change depending on the needs of the elderly and what features and services they have to get while living in the house, apartment, or condominium unit. Senior housing in the US is a housing system that needs to be discussed in detail, and in this article, we will provide you with information and data that will be helpful to have a better understanding of its intricacies and importance. So, without further ado, here are the things you should know about senior housing.

What is Senior Housing? And What Are Its Different Types?

Senior housing is where living facilities, like apartments and homes, are maintained and lived in by senior citizens or people that have reached the appropriate age of retirement. [1] As mentioned earlier, there are different types of senior housing that people can avail of, and these types have various features or services that suit the needs of the elderly that will be living in the housing facilities. Read below for the details about each type of senior housing.

Full-Service Nursing Facilities

a nurse taking care of an elderly woman

The most common type of housing for seniors is the full-service nursing facility, also known as the nursing home or skilled nursing facility (SNF). This type of housing is more suitable for senior citizens that have limited mobility, as there will be full-time nurses that will take proper care of them and provide whatever assistance they need. [2] The assistance that nurses can provide may include helping seniors eat, preparing meals, and assisting with personal hygiene.

In addition to assistance, the nurses in the nursing home would also have the medical knowledge to offer the best possible treatment for seniors that are suffering from various illnesses. The full-service nursing facility is a community wherein senior citizens are free to interact with each other so that they can have friends or companions around.

Senior Apartments

Senior apartments are living facilities that look like regular apartments at first glance but actually have design features that are applied to make it easier for senior citizens or the elderly to move around in various rooms or floors. There are plenty of senior apartments in the United States, and they can only be rented by people that are over the age of 55. [2]

The senior apartments are specifically designed for the elderly, as there are a limited number of stairs and numerous grab bars that seniors can hold on to whenever they want to move from one space to another. The elderly may also hire a part-time nurse so that they can get assistance for tasks or chores that may be difficult for them to do alone, like house cleaning and cooking.

Independent Living Communities

senior living community

Independent living communities are usually apartment complexes wherein a senior citizen will be able to live with other senior citizens in a community with full-time services and offerings. In independent living or IL communities, there will be community restaurants and kitchens where seniors can gather to enjoy a full meal service that provides breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner.

The IL communities would also have activities or programs for the seniors to participate in, and these programs are created in order for the elderly to have a good time or do various activities that can increase their productivity and positive energy. However, the seniors that live in these communities are free to do whatever they want, either alone or with assistance.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living communities are pretty similar to independent living communities, where there will be complexes or facilities that provide services and places to live for seniors. However, what’s different about assisted living or AL communities is that the nurses or caregivers in the communities would provide full-time or 24/7 assistance to the seniors. [2]

The AL communities are more suitable for seniors that have limited to no mobility, and there are also memory care wings in the communities that are there to provide healthcare and assistance for seniors suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, the IL and AL communities are merged as one, and this allows the community to have housing units for seniors that need AL units while also having IL units that are suitable for seniors that require less assistance.

Continuing Care Retirement Community

The continuing care retirement community or CCRC is a long-term care option that allows seniors or their families to pay for the services of the nurses or caregivers for the remainder of the elderly’s life. So, the CCRC communities provide life-long services, and the payment can already be made before the service actually begins, although there are also monthly service fees that the family of the elderly will need to pay. The CCRC communities ensure that seniors will be given 24/7 care for the rest of their lives.

History of Senior Living and Housing

Senior living and senior care have been around since the 1000s, and it is evident in the discovery of the “Canon of Medicine,” an Arabic document written in 1025 that provides details on how to apply medical treatment for the elderly. [3]

However, it was only in the late 1700s when proper senior housing was provided for the elderly in the United States, especially those that don’t have family members that could take care of them. In the early 1700s, there were only almshouses, poorhouses, and infirmaries that would give care to seniors that don’t have family members.

The Revolutionary War Pension

Revolutionary War

It was in 1776 when the US government approved pensions for the veterans of the American Revolutionary War, which was fought from 1775 to 1783 to secure the independence of the United States against the British Empire. The pensions for the disabled veterans of the said war would continue to be given even when they officially became senior citizens. The 1776 pension would also lead the way to the creation of modern housing and assistance for veterans. [4]

Senior Living in the 1800s

The 1800s was the period where senior housing became one of the focuses of the US government, as there were many laws and regulations about senior care and housing that were implemented during that time. But the assisted living facilities in that period were still considered primitive compared to the senior housing systems or programs that we have today.

Nonetheless, the founding of the Visiting Nursing Association or VNA and the establishment of various assisted living facilities in the 1800s were instrumental in the improvement of senior living and housing in the United States. [4]

Creation of State Pension Plans and Private Retirement Programs

pension for seniors

During the early 1900s, specifically between 1900 and 1929, homes for the aged and senior health care services increased in numbers. It was estimated that about two to four percent of people aged 65 and above were already living in senior care facilities.

It was also during that time that pension plans that were sponsored by the government, as well as retirement programs offered by private companies, became popular. With the creation of those two senior care offerings, it became much easier for the elderly to get enough funds for themselves when they were no longer capable of working.

Senior Living during the Great Depression

During the Great Depression that occurred in the 1930s, a lot of people in the US that belonged to the older generation lived in dependency. Fortunately, the Social Security Act became law in 1935, which was instrumental in creating a system of old-age or retirement benefits for workers and victims of work-related accidents. [5] In addition to retirement and old-age benefits, the Social Security Act also provided benefits for dependent mothers and children, as well as persons with disabilities.

Within the 1935 Social Security Act, there was a program called Old Age Assistance or OAA, which would provide cash payments to elderly people that are poor. Before, the size of the pension for the elderly would depend on how long they have worked for the government or private companies, but with the creation of the OAA program, the elderly will get cash payment that doesn’t compute or count their work record. [6]

Senior Living after World War II

After World War II, the amount of disabled and aging people in the United States increased, and the overwhelming number of disabled is primarily made up of the ones that came out of the war with debilitating injuries. It was during that time when the US government improved their old-age assistance and Veterans benefits so that the disabled and the elderly would still be able to live comfortably despite their condition.

Nursing Home Fires in the 1950s

In the 1950s, the number of nursing homes increased rapidly, and although this increase was beneficial for a lot of senior citizens in the United States during that time, there were plenty of nursing homes back then that were built too quickly and became unsafe and hazardous for the elderly and the people working in those facilities.

Because of how poorly the nursing homes in the 1950s were made, deadly nursing home fires occurred across different states of the US, killing hundreds of senior citizens that have limited mobility and could not escape a fire quickly. The US government quickly created building codes and regulations that would ensure nursing homes and other establishments would have safer construction and design. [7]

It was also in the 1950s when the Housing Act of 1959 was passed into law, and this became beneficial in increasing the number of affordable housing for the elderly. Thanks to the Housing Act of 1959, the United States was able to have low-income senior apartments and independent housing for the elderly.

The Older Americans Act of 1965

helping hand for the elderly

In 1965, the Older Americans Act or OAA became law. The OAA established the Administration on Aging, which is an agency that is responsible for creating programs and plans that are focused on providing ample funds and assistance for older people in the United States. [8]

Medicare, a federal health insurance program, and Medicaid, a state and federal program for the medical expenses of low-income patients were also passed as official programs of the US government in 1965. These two programs helped millions of elderly people in the United States have even more funds to afford proper housing and nursing assistance.

The Retirement Wave of the 2010s and 2020s

When some of the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 turned 65 years old in the early 2010s, the United States experienced the “retirement wave.” The retirement wave is a period in the 2010s and 2020s wherein more than 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. This wave will create a dilemma for the US in the near future, and the government and various private housing companies must do their best to provide more senior housing projects and assisted living services for the increasing senior population. [3]

Statistics about Senior Living and Senior Housing

There are many interesting statistics about senior living in the United States, and it is essential to talk about them since they will show just how much senior housing matters in the country. Here are various statistics that you need to know about senior citizens and seniors living in the United States.

Number of Seniors in the United States

According to the 2017 US Census, there are about 47 million seniors that are living in the United States out of the 325 million of the total population. It is estimated that 14% of people in the United States are senior citizens or are people that are aged 65 and above.

By 2060, the Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of seniors in the country will be at 100 million, which is more than double the number of seniors in 2017. The increasing number of seniors in the United States is said to be caused by the long life span of American seniors, as their average life expectancy is 78.8 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. [9]

To know more about the increasing percentage of seniors in the United States, here is a statistic by Statista that shows the recorded and projected share of the old age population from 1950 to 2050. [10]

Senior Housing in the United States

Share of Senior Population in the Total US Population from 1950 to 2050

Year Percentage of Senior Population
1950 8
1960 9
1970 10
1980 11.3
1990 12.5
2000 12.4
2010 13.1
2020 16.9
2030 20.6
2040 21.6
2050 22

The increasing population and life expectancy of senior citizens of the United States is connected to the seniors’ quality of living, as well as the abundance of assisted care for them. As assisted living and senior healthcare are becoming more accessible over the years, it is already expected that the lifespan of seniors will increase.

Life Expectancy of Seniors in the US

increasing number of seniors in the United States

The National Center for Health Statistics has also stated that males that are born in 2015 have an average life expectancy of 76.5 years, while females are at 81.2 years. Once the seniors in the US reach the age of 80, they will most likely live for much longer, and the CDC estimated that they might live for eight to ten more years. Coincidentally, there are more than 50,000 seniors in the US that are aged 100 or older. About 80% of those centenarians are women.

Women Living Longer Than Men

Since the life expectancy of women is longer than men based on statistics, it could be said that women in the US (and even in other countries) tend to always live longer than men. One of the possible reasons why men live shorter lives is because they would often have dangerous or risky hobbies like hunting, shooting at a firing range, riding motorcycles, and more.

In addition, the jobs that most men accept are also quite dangerous, like working for construction sites or coal mines. [9] However, there are also some women that do these dangerous hobbies and jobs, although they are still fewer in numbers.

Leading Cause of Injuries and Death to Seniors

The leading cause of death and injuries is falling down, which could happen while climbing a set of stairs or falling from a chair or ladder while trying to reach something that is too high. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released a report in 2016 stating that about 25% of senior Americans age 65 and above fall down and get injuries or die. Fortunately, these accidents are preventable, and they can be prevented by having nurses that will take care and keep an eye on seniors so that they won’t fall down or slip on anything.

Retirement for Seniors

retirement funds

Despite the high number of nursing facilities in the United States, only 3.1% of seniors live in nursing homes. However, most seniors in the US opt to get in-home care support, which is a type of assisted living wherein a full-time or part-time nurse will be at the home of a senior to provide monitoring or assistance.

Besides the low percentage of seniors in nursing homes, many senior citizens in the United States also don’t retire and are working beyond their retirement age. Even though there is assistance in the US for senior citizens that don’t have a good work record, many seniors prefer to still work because they feel that they didn’t save enough money for retirement. [11] There are also seniors that continue working because they just enjoy doing specific tasks instead of just sitting at home. Studies have shown that about 20% of senior citizens still have full-time jobs, although they are voluntary.

Share of Renter Households in the US

Senior housing is fairly common in the United States, although its numbers are still quite low compared to regular housing. Here is a statistic that shows the recorded and speculated distribution of renter households in the US between 2007 and 2035. [12]

Share of Renter Households in the United States Between 2007 and 2035

Age Range

2007

2017

2025

2035

34 and Under

38%

34%

31%

27%

35 to 59

44%

44%

43%

43%

60 and Over

18%

22%

26%

31%

As shown above, it is projected that the share of renter households for people aged 60 and above will increase over the years, although it will still remain relatively low compared to the share of people aged 35 to 59, which is relatively consistent in its share throughout the years. But, the increasing percentage of the seniors’ share of renter households is a good sign that more of them will continue to live comfortably in safe homes or communities.

Consistent Percentage of Seniors that Need Assistance

The percentage of seniors that need assistance from a nurse or caregiver has remained consistent for more than a decade, and the percentage never fell below 6%, and it also never rose beyond 7.4%. There is no factual explanation for this phenomenon, but researchers believe that it is connected to how seniors wouldn’t want to retire or be put in nursing homes in the United States. Here is a statistic that shows the percentage of seniors that need personal care from 1997 to 2018. [13]

Percentage of Seniors that Need Help with Personal Care from 1997 to 2018

Year Percentage of Seniors
1997 6.6
1998 6.3
1999 6.4
2000 6.4
2001 6.5
2002 6.2
2004 6.3
2005 6.3
2006 6.1
2007 6.9
2008 6.4
2009 6.4
2010 7
2011 7.3
2012 6.4
2013 7.2
2014 6.5
2015 6.9
2016 6.4
2017 6.7
2018 7

Major Companies that Provide Senior Housing

As senior housing is becoming more common or abundant in the United States, it is normal that the country already has dozens of different companies that provide senior housing, and some of these companies already have more than 200 senior living and housing facilities in various states. Here is a list of the major companies that provide senior housing. [14]

Major Companies that Provide Senior Housing

Major Companies that Provide Senior Housing

Company Name Number of Communities Number of Residents
Brookdale Senior Living Solutions 1,100+ 60,000+
Holiday Retirement 300+ 37,000+
Sunrise Senior Living 250+ 25,000+
Five Star Senior Living 240+ 26,000+
Senior Lifestyle Corporation 200+ 20,000+
Enlivant 180+ 8,000+
Atria Senior Living 150+ 20,000+
Life Care Services 140+ 28,000+
Capital Senior Living Corporation 120+ 15,000+
Affinity Living Group 110+ 8,000+

The biggest company that provides senior housing is Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, and its size in terms of the number of communities is more than double the size of the second-biggest senior housing company, Holiday Retirement. Brookdale Senior Living Solution was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee.

The second-biggest in the senior housing industry, Holiday Retirement, was originally known as Holiday Management Company and was founded in 1971 in Salem, Oregon. As of 2022, Holiday Retirement is headquartered in Winter Park, Florida. Most of the senior housing companies in the US have been around since the 1970s and the 1980s, which are the periods where senior housing was becoming more in-demand due to the continually increasing number of seniors in the country.

Interesting Facts about Seniors and Senior Living

  1. Because the life expectancy of women is higher than men, you will see more elderly women living alone than living with a spouse. On the other hand, there are more elderly men that live with their spouses compared to those that live alone.
  2. The senior population is the fastest-growing age group in the United States. Interestingly, the US Census Bureau reported that people aged 85 and above are growing in numbers. [15]
  3. The senior population is also the fastest-growing age group on Facebook. About 53% of American seniors have learned how to use social media and other online apps.
  4. About 42% of the senior population in the United States are part of minority groups, which are groups of people that have practices, religions, and ethnicities that are fewer in numbers compared to the majority in a country.
  5. There are more than 10,000 in the “baby boomer” generation that turns 65 every day. The baby boomer generation is composed of people that are born between 1946 and 1964. [16]
  6. In the United States, there are more than 11,000 senior centers and communities that serve more than 1 million seniors every day.
  7. Studies have shown that physical activities can slow the aging process of seniors. This is the reason why many senior centers in the US organize programs or activities so that seniors will remain physically and mentally active.
  8. The ratio of men to women that are 65 and above is 76 to 100. Also, the ratio of men to women that are over 85 years old is 49 to 100. [17]
  9. Seniors that are age 75 and above visit the doctor three times more than adults aged 20 to 40.
  10. About 99% of seniors in the United States have health insurance, and 93% of those people have Medicare, a government-sponsored insurance program.

References

[1] Tatum, M. (2022, September 10). What is Senior Housing? WiseGeek. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.wise-geek.com/what-is-senior-housing.htm

[2] Mercante, B. (2019. August 22). What does senior housing mean? StackSource Blog. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://blog.stacksource.com/what-does-senior-housing-mean-8f17c8a52e0

[3] Nesian, H. (2022, August 1). Evolution of Senior Living: Background, History and Present Trends in 2022. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://lanternlifestyle.com/evolution-of-senior-living-background-history-and-present-trends-in-2022/

[4] Hoyt, J. (2022, July 11). 200 Years of Senior Living History. SeniorLiving.org. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.seniorliving.org/history/

[5] US National Archives (2022, February 8). Social Security Act (1935). US National Archives. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/social-security-act

[6] VCU Libraries. Aid for the Aged (OAA) 1935. VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/public-welfare/aid-for-the-aged/

[7] Hoyt, J. (2022, July 5). Senior Living History: 1950 – 1959. SeniorLiving.org. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.seniorliving.org/history/1950-1959/

[8] Administration for Community Living. (2022, July 5). Older Americans Act. Administration for Community Living. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://acl.gov/about-acl/authorizing-statutes/older-americans-act

[9] Hoyt, J. Statistics About Seniors. SeniorLiving.org. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.seniorliving.org/statistics-about-seniors/

[10] Statista Research Department. (2022, June 23) US – seniors as a percentage of the population 1950-2050. Statista. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/457822/share-of-old-age-population-in-the-total-us-population/

[11] Jaffe, I. (2019, October 2). Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling – Or Unable – To Retire. NPR.org. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/02/751797229/the-new-realities-of-work-and-retirement

[12] Statista Research Department. (2020, November 6). Share of renter households in the US 2007-2035, by age. Statista. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/971831/share-renter-households-usa-by-age-forecast/

[13] Michas, F. (2020, October 15). Percentage of US people who needed help with personal care from others 1997-2018. Statista. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/244628/share-of-us-adults-who-who-need-help-with-personal-care/

[14] Edelen, M. (2017, April 3), Top 12 Senior Housing Companies in the United States. After55.com. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.after55.com/blog/biggest-senior-housing-companies/

[15] Elder Options Admin. (2018, March 20). Interesting Facts about Older Adults. Elder Options. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://agingresources.org/interesting-facts-about-older-adults/

[16] Mountain Empire Legal Services. 10 Fun Facts About Senior Adults In Honor of the Upcoming National Older Americans Month. Mountain Empire Legal Services. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://mountainempirelegal.com/10-fun-facts-senior-adults-honor-upcoming-national-older-americans-month/

[17] DoSomething.org Admin. 11 Facts About Old Age. DoSomething.org. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-old-age

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