COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on nearly all areas of senior living. Traditional bricks-and-mortar communities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care assisted living, have experienced a sizeable decline not only in census, but also in unpaid professional referrals and future pipeline activity.

Slowdown in Inquiries

Many states put restrictions in place for visitors to senior living communities. These limitations, including site visits, slowed the number of inquiries by those considering a move to community housing. Senior living providers adapted by arranging virtual tours through creative marketing. Although seniors and/or their families may not be able to tour the community in person, many senior living communities provide these tours through Zoom or through videoconference on their phones.

Slowdown in Interest

According to Kaiser Health News, individuals age 65 and older account for 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. This has created some hesitancy or delayed interest in moving into senior living. Additional factors slowing the overall interest in senior living include limitations such as not being able to tour on site or use a moving company; restrictions on family visits; and national negative coverage of the industry, among others.

According to enquire®, year-over-year inquiries are down 22 percent, tours are down 45 percent, and move-ins are down 28 percent. Though inquiries remain down, they are slowly picking up as restrictions have been eased from both federal and state governments. Many senior living providers have also begun to market special promotions, increasing interest.

Decline in Occupancy

According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), 2020 private pay senior housing occupancy fell from 87.7 percent in Quarter 1 to 84.9 percent in Quarter 2. Much of this impact can be directly related to COVID-19, which has caused a decrease in the number of inquiries and admissions into senior housing.

As inquiries have increased and restrictions have been eased, there appears to be more interest in moving into senior living, which will have a positive impact on occupancy in Quarter 3. Occupancy will likely remain lower than in prior years, but for need-driven products such as assisted living and memory-care assisted living, the overall number of residents appears to be increasing, although this varies by geography.

Benefits of Senior Housing During COVID-19

Senior housing offers many benefits to seniors and their families, especially during COVID-19. Isolation and lack of socialization have negative cognitive, mental, emotional, and physical impacts on seniors and their families. Although COVID-19 has curtailed some communal activities, living in a senior housing community still provides socialization opportunities. Additionally, nutritious meals, transportation services, and personal care can be provided, creating a safe environment.

Providers Changing Sales and Marketing Tactics

In addition to the virtual tours and incentives that providers are offering to drive prospects to their communities, they are also providing events virtually or outdoors by leveraging summer for outdoor concerts and entertainment. Providers are also hosting education, entertainment, and information through virtual information sessions and webinars where people can learn about dementia or estate planning or listen to popular artists through broadcast concerts.

As many senior centers, churches, and other organizations have yet to resume group activities, senior living providers have become creative in how they reach out to seniors. Some examples include buying coffee for seniors at their favorite morning coffee runs or offering drive-through breakfast for both prospects and referral sources.

In the end, the market has definitely changed—the best providers are facing the challenge head-on and changing with it.

For More Information

HDG assists senior care and housing providers in preparing for and responding to COVID-19, as well as planning for reopening. HDG operates communities in addition to consulting with organizations across the country, and we understand what it takes to make it in the real world. If you have questions or if HDG can assist you with the necessary steps and the myriad operational process changes necessary to survive and thrive, please contact us at or 763.537.5700.

Additionally, to assist clients, managed communities, and other providers in preparing for and responding to COVID-19, HDG created a Skilled Nursing & Senior Living COVID-19 Response & Resource Center that is available for your use.