News & Press Releases

Older Adults Are Demonstrably Less Vulnerable Soon After Moving into Senior Housing

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

ANNAPOLIS (September 26, 2023) – 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 and ultimately decline.  

The research was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, funded through a grant from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.  

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.”

NORC used the Harvard Claims-Based Frailty Index to assess older adults’ vulnerability to adverse health outcomes as measured by their rate of chronic conditions, acute conditions, and health services utilization. Residents with the greatest level of need and vulnerability tend to live in properties that offer the most intensive support services.

“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.”

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.”

The 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.


About the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care
The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (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 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.  For more information, visit NIC’s website and follow NIC on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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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