Report: Older Adults are Less Vulnerable Soon After Moving into Senior Housing

September 27, 2023

CHICAGO, IL — According to a brand-new report, research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and funded through a grant from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care indicates that older adults are more vulnerable to illness and impaired mobility immediately before and just after moving into a senior living community.

However, their vulnerability quickly plateaus and regresses.

In its research, NORC reviewed Medicare claims of residents from more than 14,200 senior living communities; a frailty index developed by researchers at Harvard University revealed that those residents experienced a 10% decline in relative frailty levels one year after moving in when compared with their peak levels.

“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.”

“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.”

NORC used the Frailty Index to assess older adults’ vulnerability as measured by their rate of chronic conditions, acute conditions, and health services utilization.

“Senior housing and care operators must continually assess residents to mitigate risk and improve health, because even older adults who are relatively healthy could be just one incident away from needing higher levels of care,” said Ryan Brooks, senior principal at NIC. “Understanding the vulnerability of residents helps indicate where frailty management is needed to avoid injury and more intensive support.”

The study is the first in a four-part project supported by NIC to assess the health and well-being of senior housing and care residents.

NIC, 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 objective and timely insights and implications derived from its analytics, which benefit from its affiliation with NIC MAP Vision, a provider of comprehensive market data for senior housing and skilled nursing communities. NIC events provide sector stakeholders with opportunities to convene, network, and drive thought leadership through educational programming.

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers data and 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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