HOUSTON - After COVID-19 took a toll on senior facilities across the country, more seniors are choosing to move into senior living homes for a sense of community after the pandemic. And the hot housing market is helping them pay for it.
Two different seniors: 85-year-old Susan, and retired politico Peter Roussel. Both have similar stories that led them to choose senior living at Belmont Village.
"It’s much more of a social life than I would have had on my own," said Susan. "And basically, it was my health that brought me here."
"When I came out of the hospital, I needed to be somewhere where I wasn’t by myself and alone," said Roussel, a retired White House spokesperson. "That’s what got me into trouble in the first place."
More seniors are choosing senior living again, particularly for a sense of community.
"I think social isolation has played a big part. People have been stranded at home," explained Patricia Will, founder, and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living.
According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, occupancy in senior housing went from 88% pre-COVID to 79% in 2020, and is now back up to 81%, with many new facilities under construction.
The average age of new residents has dropped from 84 to 79.
"We’re seeing a younger customer present. That is to say, they’re not waiting until something goes wrong to make the decision," said Will.
And residents have shifted from mostly women to including more men and couples.
"Yes, you’re seeing more couples, which I think is terrific. You get to know them both," said Roussel.
Like most industries, many senior living facilities have had to raise prices to deal with inflation and labor shortages. But many seniors are selling their homes in the hot real estate market.
"The run-up in home prices now over the last decade, especially during the pandemic, has created a wealth factor," said Will.
And Will says today's seniors are more accustomed to community living from their younger days in college.
"I found that other side to life, and they won’t let me be alone, which is good!" added Roussel.
"We all have our privacy, but there are wonderful people here if you need, you know, to socialize," explained Susan.
The American Senior Housing Association offers tips for choosing senior living and assisted living facilities.