Last week, we talked about how vital it is for retirement communities — and indeed the senior living industry as a whole — to listen to the voice of the resident. People who have chosen to make a retirement community move should feel comfortable once they are there, including feeling respected and heard by management. Retirement community administrators thus must develop effective processes for receiving and considering resident feedback.

For just about any industry, there is much to be learned by listening to what their prospects and customers have to say. That’s one of the reasons myLifeSite periodically conducts a consumer survey. We collect insights from current and prospective retirement community residents to determine what is important to them, what factors play into their senior living decision process, and what influences might be causing them to delay or even avoid a move to a retirement community.

>> Related: The Voice of the Resident Should Be Heard by Retirement Communities

We’re listening to the voice of the senior living consumer

The results of the 2023 myLifeSite Consumer Survey are in, and there are a number of findings that may be of use to retirement communities throughout the sales cycle and even once a prospect becomes a resident.

It’s important to note that our sample size was relatively small — 255 respondents — but the collective feedback they provided is still insightful. It highlights that people’s senior living decision-making process is nuanced and multifaceted, influenced by a number of social, financial, health, and logistical factors.

The 10-question survey and its results touched on several key themes that collectively contribute to a person’s senior living decision:

  • Social connection and community involvement
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Location and lifestyle
  • Family and relationships
  • Financial concerns
  • Health and independence
  • Community/residence and amenities
  • Downsizing and moving logistics
  • Personal preferences and lifestyle
  • Community management and governance
  • Unique circumstances

Let’s take a look at one of the survey’s key findings around what is holding people back from making a move to a retirement community. The number one factor is not likely to be a surprise to most people, but it’s an important reminder about a topic retirement communities must effectively address with their prospective residents.

>> Related: 3 Reasons Seniors Delay a CCRC Move & Why They Should Reconsider

The top retirement community move concern

There are a number of reasons that a person may put off a move to a retirement community or even decide they don’t want to move to one at all. In our survey, among the top reasons that people noted were holding them back from a retirement community move were lack of trust in the organization/staff, with 34.8% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to delay their move because of this. Among the survey verbatims on this topic:

  • “Concern community would be sold to a for-profit non-healthcare investor owner.”
  • “Lack of control of quality, especially for obligatory paid dining.”
  • “Concerns about financial viability of the community. Will it be managed properly? Will services be available when I need them?”

Even more cited not wanting to leave the comfort and independence of their current home (37.3%). The task of downsizing and selling their current home was a common theme on this front. Some of the comments included:

  • “The process of downsizing along with preparing and selling the current home will most likely be the greatest stumbling point.”
  • “Prefer independent life.”
  • “Don’t want to leave my community of close friends.”

But the top reason that people are hesitant to make a retirement community move is concerns about cost and affordability with 41.3% saying this issue was likely or very likely to give them pause. Some of the verbatim survey responses on this topic included:

  • “Buy-in fees and monthly cost much higher in our area.”
  • “The high rent increases each year.”
  • “Not wanting to pay for services I don’t yet use, like meal prep/availability or housing while I’m still traveling.”

>> Related: What’s the True Cost of Staying in the Home?

A concern for almost all age demographics

The survey broke down the top concerns about a retirement community move by age group, and the findings were rather stark. Cost and affordability was the top concern among all age groups with the exception of those age 85 and older.

The cost and affordability of a retirement community was particularly concerning among those under the age of 65 with 52.6% citing this as their top concern. For those age 65 – 74, 38.4% said cost was their number one worry, and for those age 75 – 84, 43.5% noted cost as their top concern.

Among those age 85 and older, however, 31.6% said cost and affordability was their primary sticking point — tied with not wanting to leave the comfort and independence of their current home and lack of trust in the organization or staff. Interestingly, for this oldest age demographic, their top reason for avoiding or delaying a retirement community move was having a spouse or partner who doesn’t want to make the move with 42.1% of respondents in this age group noting that hurdle.

>> Related: The Cost of a CCRC vs. the Value to Residents

Another demographic distinction

Another interesting finding around the cost/affordability issue is how the numbers break down by marital status.

For those who are married or in a partnership, 36.5% said that cost and/or affordability was a factor that was likely or very likely to make them delay or avoid a retirement community move. For those who are widowed, it was 40.6%, and for those who are single or never married, it was 44.4%.

Among respondents who are divorced or separated, however, a whopping 73.9% — nearly 3 out of 4 —said that concerns about cost and affordability were likely or very likely to cause them to delay or avoid a move to a retirement community. This was by far the top sticking point for people in this demographic.

This survey finding underscores one of the challenges faced by those who are aging alone — sometimes referred to as “soloagers.” Of course, not everyone who is aging alone wants to move to a retirement community, but for those who do see the appeal of living in a 55-plus community, worries around cost and affordability are often a major roadblock.

>> Related: Single Seniors May Pay the Price When it Comes to Retirement Savings

Making a cost-value case for a retirement community move

Knowing that cost and affordability is very consistently a top reason that people delay or avoid a retirement community move altogether is valuable information for organizations within the senior living industry. It underscores communities’ need to educate people on affordability as well as to make a more compelling case for value — what people actually get for their money.

In many instances, people may want to move to a retirement community but don’t think they can afford it, when in reality, they can. Lifetime affordability calculators, like MoneyGauge from myLifeSite, are one way that communities can not only financially pre-qualify prospective residents but can help educate prospects with a more accurate look at their ability to afford a retirement community.

Of course, some people truly are not going to be able to afford to move to a retirement community, and others simply are not interested in living in one. But for those who would like the comfort and convenience that comes with living in a 55-plus community, and in particular the peace of mind that comes with living in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), it is essential that communities paint an accurate picture about cost and affordability, and also convey the value that residents receive for their money.

Note: In an upcoming blog post, we will dig into our consumer survey findings around the reasons that most often compel people to make a retirement community move.

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