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Senior housing’s a huge opportunity, developers say

As baby-boomers continue entering their retirement years, a boom in interest for senior housing will follow in Rio Rancho and across the nation, according to senior housing specialists.

Julie Ferguson of Titan Development’s senior living and Dave Walbright of Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group discussed senior housing at Thursday’s NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center. NAOIP is a trade association for the commercial real estate industry.

Senior housing is a growing industry, Ferguson said, with 22,100 housing communities nationally with a total value of $423.4 billion.

Still, senior housing is an option that most eligible people don’t immediately consider: 11 percent of those eligible to live in senior housing choose to do so, Ferguson said. The average resident living in independent living senior housing is 80 years old.

“It really hasn’t changed that much in the last 15 years, so as an industry we have to ask ourselves: What are we not providing to our potential consumer that’s making them make the decision to say, ‘I’ll stay at home, I’ll figure it out, I’ll bring in my own health care, I’ll move in with my daughter, I’ll figure out a way to get it done,'” Ferguson said. “If we can move the needle as an industry and get more people to join our communities, the growth could be tremendous.”

Walbright, who helped oversee this spring’s opening of the retirement housing center The Neighborhood, said retirees and potential clients can be categorized in three groups: 55 to 75, 70 to 85 and 80 to 90-plus.

Retirees 55 to 75, he said, are active and excited to enjoy their retirement; retirees 70 to 85 are still active but less so, with their homes beginning to be obstacles for them; retirees 80 to 90-plus typically need assistance or a caregiver, with their home being a burden.

Senior housing should recognize and address each group’s lifestyles, Walbright said. If the lifestyles of younger seniors are recognized, senior housing would be able to attract more than 11 percent of eligible clients.

“In our society, the way they visualize aging, seniority-wise, becomes a joke. Even seniors don’t want to be seniors,” he said. “The mantra I’ve heard for 35 years: ‘I’m not ready for that yet.’ That’s why people have a hard time deciding.”

Both presenters said senior housing businesses should address these concerns soon, since the county’s 85-plus community is expected to grow 230 percent by 2050.

The years 2030 to 2033, Ferguson said, will see the nation’s highest percentage of people over the age of 80. Walbright credited the expected boom to an increase in healthier lifestyles and better health care, saying the average life expectancy will grow from today’s 78.8 years to 84.1 years by 2030.

“There’s great growth in this market,” Ferguson said. “Those 60-year-olds 20 years from now will be really important.”