News & Press Releases

Senior Housing Resident Safety Similar to Non-congregate Housing Once COVID-19 Vaccines Became Available

People living in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs or life plan communities) were significantly safer from dying of COVID-19 than older adults living in non-congregate residential housing in the community at large, and people living in independent living, assisted living, and memory care properties were as safe or nearly as safe, once the COVID-19 vaccines became available. That’s the key finding from new research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, supported by a grant from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). 

Differences in excess mortality from all causes—the difference in death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic relative to deaths before the pandemic—were strongly reduced in all senior housing settings after the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced. Living in any type of senior housing was safer than living in a long-stay skilled nursing facility during COVID-19, prior to and after the vaccines became available, according to researchers. 

“When people talk about challenges safeguarding seniors during the pandemic, they are usually thinking about the experience of nursing homes,” said Raymond Braun, NIC’s president and CEO. “In reality, older adults weathered the pandemic differently depending on where they lived, their age, and their chronic conditions. Following the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines, senior housing settings were about as safe as living in residential housing in the community.” 

Earlier NORC research, which was conducted in 2020 prior to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines, found that a majority of senior housing property types across five states (51%) experienced no COVID-19 deaths, compared with 39% of skilled nursing facilities. Additionally, COVID-19 mortality rates were significantly higher in skilled nursing facilities (59.6 deaths per 1,000) and memory care facilities (50.4 deaths per 1,000), where residents tend to have more chronic conditions, health and caregiving needs, than in other types of senior housing. Assisted living facilities had 19.3 deaths per 1,000 and independent living residences had 5.9 deaths per 1,000 during the same period. 

“Nursing homes are just one type of housing for older adults, and they care for people with serious health needs who were particularly at risk of death from COVID-19,” said Mairin Mancino, senior director of health care strategy with NORC at the University of Chicago. “Our research shows that seniors who lived in other senior housing settings, particularly independent living properties and continuing care retirement communities, weathered COVID-19 better than seniors in non-congregate, residential settings.” 

The study introduced a new way to use Medicare claims data to assess the health and outcomes of older adults in senior housing and nursing care settings compared with the community at large. The methodology for the study utilizes an academically designed data linkage approach which combines property information from NIC MAP® Data Service, powered by NIC MAP Vision, with Medicare claims and administrative data. The analysis allows for comparisons of comparable seniors across disparate living settings and is among the first to utilize an accurate, extensive list of senior housing properties matched to Medicare administrative data to identify residents of seniors housing, nursing homes, and non-congregate settings. 

 Read the full report here 


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 premiere 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 Twitter, 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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