Senior Care

[McKnight's Senior Living] Embracing technology to improve your census

Freddie Peyerl
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Freddie Peyerl

“We need to improve our census.”

It sounds great, and it feels right, but execution on such an initiative can prove challenging in today’s senior living landscape as occupancy rates hit all time lows.

In 2020, the overall senior housing occupancy rate fell to 80.7%, a drop of 6.8% from 2019.  Assisted living and skilled nursing felt the biggest effects, dropping to 77.7% and 75.3%, respectively. Independent living, at 83.5%, experienced the highest census out of the senior living and care segments, but even that number is still a staggering 7.4% decrease compared with the prior year.

It’s easy to blame last year on pandemic fallout, a convenient excuse that overshadows the larger, and harsher, truth: senior living and care occupancy has been falling for years, with occasional blips of hope that inevitably return back to a path trending downward. Assisted living communities, which enjoyed nearly 90% occupancy rates between 2014 and 2015, have fallen steadily since then. The 77% occupancy rate by the end of 2020 marks nearly a 13% drop since 2014.

Why are these decreases happening, and how can the industry reverse course?

It’s a lot to unpack.

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