Study Shows Older Adults Are Less Vulnerable After Moving into Senior Housing

senior couple smiling

Study reveals the medical conditions and functional support needs that drive demand for senior housing


“Older adults have heightened vulnerability to illness and impaired mobility prior to, and just after, entering a senior housing and care property, new research shows, but frailty levels then quickly plateau before ultimately declining.  “The research was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, funded through a grant from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care.

Positive Impact on Health

“In a review of Medicare claims of residents from 14,201 senior living properties and using a frailty index developed by researchers at Harvard University, residents were found to experience a 10% decline in relative frailty levels one year after moving in, as compared to peak. The findings can help senior housing advocates better understand and respond to older adults’ health needs. 

“Non-medical care and services like socialization, transportation, exercise, balanced nutrition, medication management and others have a positive impact on a resident’s health,” said Dianne Munevar, lead researcher at NORC. “The measured decrease in vulnerability once older adults settle into senior housing suggests a tremendous opportunity for the industry to work with payers and other intermediaries to direct care into senior housing properties in a way that is beneficial to beneficiaries and residents.”

Vulnerability Can Be Corrected

“Experts say that while frailty can be a proxy to determine an older adult’s functional status, vulnerability of older adults is an important concept in senior housing research, because it suggests a temporary state of being that can be corrected with the proper interventions.

“Showing that vulnerability levels off and then declines after entering senior living is an important finding, especially for senior housing operators and residents,” said Raymond Braun, president and CEO at NIC. “For residents, it suggests that this kind of housing can help restore a measure of vitality and independence. For operators, it indicates that investing in non-medical supports is critical for residents’ improved health and safety.”

This study is the first part of a four-part project supported by NIC to assess the health and well-being of senior housing and care residents. Subsequent studies will provide insights on access to health care providers, longevity, and health outcomes of residents in senior living settings. Click here for the full study.

About the National Investment Center (NIC) for Seniors Housing & Care
The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to enable access and choice by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers. The organization delivers the most trusted, objective, and timely insights and implications derived from its analytics, which benefit from NIC’s affiliation with NIC MAP Vision, the leading provider of comprehensive market data for senior housing and skilled nursing properties. NIC events, which include the industry’s premier conferences, provide sector stakeholders with opportunities to convene, network, and drive thought leadership through high quality educational programming.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created, and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.

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