How Current Trends Could Impact Your Senior Living Marketing Strategies
The senior living market is beginning to bounce back. That should mean good news for your community’s occupancy numbers. But will it?
Well, it might be important to know what the forecast is for the upcoming 18-24 months.
What are the top trends in senior living community occupancy in 2022 & 2023?
Since the height of the pandemic, the occupancy rates in senior living communities have slowly inch up. In April , 2022, NIC MAP released its industry numbers.
According to NIC, average senior housing occupancy has moved up 0.2 percentage points since Q4 2021 to 80.6% in Q1 2022. Since the pandemic-related low number of 78% in Q2 2021, this is an 2.5% increase overall.
The ‘Devil’ is in the Details
Assisted living community occupancy numbers led the way in the early part of 2022. But independent living community occupancy declined slightly. This second stat is probably due to the fact that assisted living is ‘needs based’ decision process, while independent living is a lifestyle choice. And moving into a new communities might make some individuals a bit nervous, since COVID continues to bounce back.
Supply vs. Demand
Also reported by NIC, there is low supply across all property types. This is reflective of the slowdown in construction starts during the pandemic. This lack of supply could provide an opportunity for industry growth.
“It takes about two years for a senior housing property to be built and opened, so the low number of units under construction means that supply will likely stay low and support higher occupancy,” NIC Chief Operating Officer Chuck Harry said in a statement. “This is a positive trend for the industry as it recovers units vacated during the pandemic.”
The ‘Not So Fast’ Graying of the Population
We see the western world (especially the U.S.) to be full of ‘boomers’ requiring senior living options. But, with new health data and industry statistics, we are actually not going to see the ‘boom’ in boomers until after 2028. There are more than 46 million older adults (65+) in the United States. But, the average age of seniors utilizing health-related/assisted living housing options is about 86 years old*.
People are generally living longer and remaining more independent. This will create different challenges for the ‘senior living’ market, depending upon your niche.
So, what senior living marketing strategies should you focus on in this current market?
#1 Correctly interpret the market numbers
What does your portfolio of senior living communities include? Is it a mix of assisted living and independent living? Or are you focused on one sector?
Based on your portfolio mix, you will be able to determine what strategy will work best for you.
#2 Understand who your competitors REALLY are
The decision to move into a a senior living community is not always made by comparing comparable communities. It is important that you broaden your competitive strategies. You need to take in the wider options that a prospective resident may be considering.
Assisted Living Communities
If you are providing health-related care you need to understand that the industry is seeing a shift in alternative options. These alternatives would be in-home health services and short-term needs.
Some residents will find the out-of-pocket cost of health-related living can sometimes to be similar in the cost of home health. If that is the case for your market, you should not be selling services. You should consider focusing your marketing on social aspects of your community.
Additionally, medical advances can mean that not all ‘assisted living’ needs are permanent. This means that the length of stay might be for rehabilitation rather than a permanent move.
Independent Living Communities
If you are marketing an ‘independent 55+/senior community’, you are really competing with every other housing option in the market. The main draw for independent seniors will be amenities – think luxury and ease of use.
Since these communities are private pay, your prospect might see a high rise apartment in a town center as just as valid option as your community.
They may want more flexibility in their on-site amenities packages such as meals. This allows them to eat out as well as benefit for ‘on-site’ dining options.
#3 Develop a clear image of your audience
Developing a ‘customer persona’ for your ideal client can help identify their wants and needs more clearly. This will help you visualize the competitive landscape a bit clearer by viewing the world through ‘their eyes’.
This can seem like an obvious process. But, you could be surprised by what you find, when you go through the process. If you have not built your customer persona yet, we can help.
#4 Make sure your message stands out from your competitors
After identifying your market competitors, it is important to spend some time comparing their messages and yours. Here are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:
- If everyone says the same thing, such as “ours is a secure environment” – it might be that it is a ‘given’ for the prospect, like tires on a car. Auto makers do not spend their expensive 30-second ad slot promoting the fact that their car has tires… nor should you waste your limited time selling the obvious.
- Perform an honest evaluation of your competitors’ selling points and compare them to yours. As with more real estate property, location is the top item. But, try to clearly identify yourself as ‘unique’ or ‘top of class’ in one category, so that your competitors have to sell against that point.
#5 Finally, refresh your marketing materials
As you have gone through this process, how much of your message has changed? It may be time for an update for your community website and printed information.
It may appear to be a cost that you can delay. But if you do, you may miss the ‘window of opportunity’ that this next 18-24 months represents.