The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people live, and while some of those changes (mask-wearing and social distancing) may be temporary, others may be here to stay. Such is likely to be the case for senior living facilities, which saw massive COVID-19 outbreaks earlier in the pandemic and still aren't immune to a similar fate as cases surge heading into winter. In fact, senior housing trends are likely to shift a lot in the coming years. Here are some long-term changes to look out for.
1. Better layout
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that cramming people -- particularly those with weakened immune systems -- into confined spaces is not a good idea. As such, we're likely to see more design innovation for new senior living facilities and updates to existing ones that lend to more open space and actual breathing room. Senior facilities will likely seek to maximize outdoor space as much as possible, all the while putting up safeguards to protect residents while they're stuck indoors -- like better isolation areas for the sick.
2. More enhanced sanitation and equipment
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of cleanliness and sanitation procedures for not just senior facilities, but hospitals and other healthcare facilities as well. In coming years, we're likely to see senior facilities better invest in protective gear, cleaning services, and disinfecting supplies.
3. Digital communication and marketing
Many people who reside in senior facilities inevitably end up having underlying medical issues, which means exposing them to outside germs isn't the safest bet. Senior facilities may therefore revert to virtual tours for prospective residents while seeking to limit visiting hours and replacing them with better technology that allows for on-screen communication between residents and loved ones.
4. Expanded use of telemedicine
There's been a huge uptick in telemedicine since the start of the pandemic, a practice senior facilities will likely seek to continue once it's over. Addressing minor health issues remotely is safer than exposing residents to traveling medical professionals or transporting them to outside offices.
What senior housing investors need to know
The need for senior housing isn't expected to wane, but one big change to anticipate is that the cost of operating these facilities will grow increasingly expensive. For one thing, lawmakers will likely seek to crack down on senior facilities once they have the resources to map out new policies and procedures, and there will be costs involved in getting these facilities up to compliance.
Furthermore, the above changes will all cost money to both implement and maintain. As such, profit margins may be tight in the senior housing market for quite some time as operators grapple with the daunting task of keeping residents safe without hiking up costs to the point they become prohibitive.
Right now, many seniors and their families struggle to afford full-time care, one reason why a large portion of the older population opts to age in place. Senior facilities can't afford to lose residents due to cost, which is already an issue, so they may need to bear some of the above expenses without fee increases to offset them.
In the end, these facilities do have the potential to thrive and turn solid profits, especially with safer protocol at play. But in the near term, investors may need to gear up for some bumpiness.