The Rise of Senior Living Occupancy

Colleagues having business meeting on video call.

Nov 18, 2022 | Marketing & Branding

As COVID-19 created a landscape of uncertainty in senior living facilities, experts knew there would be challenges and effects that lasted long after. Although the pandemic continues, many types of senior living communities and care facilities, like continuing care retirement communities, independent living communities and nursing homes, are once again beginning to find their footing.

These signs of recovery come with relief to many, and although this is not a full recovery, it is certainly progress. Just how much has occupancy changed, however? We’re digging in to reveal just how far we’ve come – and where we have yet to go.

The History of Occupancy in Senior Living

To understand where senior living occupancy is going, we need to understand where we’ve been. According to the National Investment Center, senior housing occupancy in the third quarter increased quite a bit from the first quarter, with NIC MAP® data, powered by NIC MAP Vision, showing an increase to 80.1% – up from the pandemic low of 78.7% in the second quarter.

How does this shift relate to each level of care?

For independent living, occupancy increased to 83.2%, up from pandemic lows of 81.8%. This is still below the pre-pandemic level of 89.7%, however.

Assisted living occupancy was also up from its pandemic low of 75.4%, but remained lower than its pre-pandemic low of 85%, with occupancy increasing to 76.9%.

Occupancy in nursing care increased to 76.3%, up from its pandemic low of 74.1% in the first quarter, but still below its pre-pandemic level of 86.6%.

A rebounding demand, and a signal of recovery.

According to NIC, this initial rebound was caused by “a significant rebound in demand and modest increase in supply,” with demand increasing by 12,318 units in NIC Map’s Primary Markets. At this point, however, it was still too early to declare recovery.

In the second quarter of 2022, according to Senior Housing News, average senior living occupancy grew 90 basis points to 81.4%, showing that good progress has been made in workforce and supply challenges. NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace shared that although there are still economic challenges on the horizon, high demand and more moderate levels of new development should help buoy census in quarters to come.

She also shared that, “More than 30% of senior living communities tracked by NIC MAP Vision have occupancy rates at or above 90%,” and that “nearly 40% of communities have occupancy rates below 80%.”

Although it was hit hardest by COVID-19, assisted living is recovering faster than independent living. Supply is also having a harder time keeping up with demand, potentially in part from a massive slowdown in construction caused by higher interest rates, inflation, and supply chain issues, according to the article.

Where Occupancy Currently Stands

Where are we now in terms of occupancy levels? Senior living occupancy was on track to increase for the fifth quarter in a row, with it being shown that stabilized occupancy would rise 0.3 percentage points to 83.7% in August, occupancy for primarily independent living properties would be 85.7% and that occupancy for majority assisted living properties would be 81.4%. This also showed that occupancy for assisted living would continue to recover faster than independent living.

So did it happen?

According to this article, yes, but maybe not as high as projected – though it boasts the highest occupancy increases since before the pandemic.

Assisted living demand, as projected, rebounded strongly, with occupancy increasing 1.1% to 79.7% and independent living occupancy increasing 0.9% up to 84.7%.

The Future of Senior Living Occupancy

What is ahead for occupancy in senior living? As the need for senior care services increases, pandemic recovery occurs, and economic challenges are faced, we may see improvement, but it’s possible that a full recovery won’t occur until the end of 2023 or even sometime in 2024.

What should older adults and senior living communities expect?

Malissa Illiano, MBA, vice president of market research for SageAge, shares that: “In nearly all markets that we work in – whether rural, urban, or somewhere in between – we are seeing occupancy levels continue to increase.”

She adds that, “Perhaps even more importantly, our consumer survey studies have shown that concern about the pandemic among the senior target market is continuing to wane while the percentage of consumers who are willing to consider senior living options for the future continues to increase.”

In other words, it’s all looking up from here.

We can help you increase your occupancy.

Discover how we can team up to turn your leads into move-ins by contacting us today at 816.349.0464 or by emailing Melinda Schmitz, SageAge CEO, at

SageAge: Here for You, Always

At SageAge, our marketing team excels in helping senior living communities target prospective residents and gather essential information through surveys, focus groups, and other tools that will generate qualified leads that will help you continue to grow and maintain your occupancy rates.

If you need assistance in any areas of marketing and integrated growth strategy to improve your business results, we invite you to contact us today to learn more about our proven strategies that have transformed other senior living communities like yours.

SageAge is a multiple award-winning strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living marketplace. For more information, please call or email Melinda Schmitz at 816.349.0464/

Share This