According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in less than 20 years, older Americans will outnumber younger Americans for the first time in our country’s history. In the multifamily housing sector, this “graying of America” is referred to as a coming “silver tsunami” that will bring the tastes and needs of seniors into sharp focus when planning luxury senior apartment communities. Since seniors want the same high-quality amenities that appeal to a broad range of residents, multifamily investors should plan on catering to them starting now.
What Luxury Senior Apartments Look Like
By 2035, the number of Americans aged 65 or older is expected to reach 78 million, while the number of citizens under 18 is projected to be 76.4 million. Those seniors will live longer, work longer, and be healthier and better educated than today’s elderly who, in 2016, numbered 46 million and accounted for 15 percent of the country’s population. This demographic preponderance will give seniors social and economic influence that they have never had before.
In multifamily housing, there will be a sharp rise in specialized senior housing—independent living, assisted living, and memory care and nursing facilities. That is only one aspect of the silver tsunami, however. This new working and active cohort of seniors may desire more than ever to age in place. As their presence in the resident base increases, it will be ever more important for multifamily developers and investors to keep senior needs and desires in mind. For some time now, the over-55 age group has been the fastest growing category of renters both numerically and proportionately.
Luxury apartment amenities that appeal to seniors can be divided into those they are fond of and those that meet their specific needs. Among the features that everyone can enjoy but are generally acknowledged to appeal especially to seniors are:
- A high level of security. Gated entrance, security cameras, video doorbells, etc.
- Convenience and access to transportation. Easy parking, walkability, mass transit, shuttle services, or a combination of all.
- Concierge services. Pet care, pickup and delivery services, and housekeeping services
- Social opportunities. Appealing common areas, regular happy hours, and frequent organized activities.
Another aspect of senior-friendliness is universal design. Universal design features enable people with differing abilities to live conveniently. For seniors, universal design elements might include easy-grip knobs and handles, grab bars in the shower, hallways wide enough to accommodate a mobility chair or scooter, extra-bright lighting, and iconic signage and labeling. These elements are integrated into the building and unit seamlessly, without drawing attention to themselves.
Finally, seniors are embracing more electronic technology, including smart tech that allows for customization of home appliances and more. The list of current and potential “smart” objects is impressive and includes, at a minimum, the following:
- kitchen appliances
- pet feeders
- trash cans
- window coverings
- window panes
Many of these items can be integrated into single systems such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, Wink Hub, and PointCentral, and controlled through mobile devices or by voice. Not only can many smart devices be installed by residents, but most also offer more than just convenience. As residents age, monitoring becomes increasingly important. Children or caregivers of seniors can use the technology to communicate and provide aid remotely.
Although no resident is likely to want the full range of smart devices available, with the rapid proliferation and growing complexity of these devices, wise multifamily property developers will build in the most necessary smart tech infrastructure when planning a new multifamily community.
Bracing for the Silver Tsunami
Catering to the needs of seniors will benefit the general pool of residents and undoubtedly contribute to higher resident retention. Implementing universal design is the perfect example of this, as it is intended for a far broader range of residents than just seniors. An apartment community that is receptive to seniors is one that is well equipped to meet the demands of the modern world today and of tomorrow.
At CWS Capital Partners, we are a fully integrated multifamily real estate investment management firm that offers everything from due diligence and multifamily real estate valuation to transaction support and property management. We specialize in assisting our clients with 1031 exchanges, acquisitions, repositioning, and development. We also own and manage luxury multifamily investment communities in major markets around the country and employ a team of experts who can help you hone your investment strategy.
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