By Steve Moran

Talk about burying the lede … NIC.

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC) just released the first results of a study that is taking a look at the longevity and frailty of senior living residents compared to those living at home.

Because I am not burying the lede … the single most important finding is that in the top performing 25% communities, residents live an astounding 50 days longer than those living at home. They also have better health outcomes.

Powerful Stuff

This is the kind of data we need to make a compelling case for senior living. It is not just longer living but better living — and living that is ultimately less expensive for the health care system. It is proof that when older people live in senior living, everyone wins.

Not So Fast

More sobering is that the study suggests that the lowest performing 25% shorten lives and increase the need for health care services. When looking at the bottom 25% of communities …

  • Residents’ average lifespan is decreased by an average of 20 days compared to home.
  • Residents experience an additional 4.6 days of hospitalization compared to home, when compared to the top 25%.

These are sobering statistics that must be investigated. I do want to caution there may be extenuating circumstances that would result in higher mortality rates in at least some communities. For instance, the residents who move into those communities are already significantly more compromised.

The Study

The documents available at the NORC website and at the NIC website provide a lot more detail, but here is a high-level look at where the data came from:

  • They looked at older adults who moved into senior housing properties in 2017 and resided in those properties until their death, or the end of the two-year study period, tracking these residents for a total of 730 days.
  • All of the study data came from the NIC MAP Vision database.
  • The residents were compared to a noncongregate population that was comparable in age, gender and frailty.
  • There were …
    • 1,900 total properties
    • 474 CCRCs
    • 928 independent living communities
    • 499 assisted living communities
    • 6 memory care communities

More Exploration

As is nearly always the case, these initial study results raise more questions:

  • What are those top 25% communities doing to achieve those outstanding results?
  • What is going on with the bottom 25% communities where the data suggests they are making things worse?
  • What are the other factors that impact these results?
  • What would the study look like if the time period were longer?
  • What about resident satisfaction? How does it tie into  this?
  • What is the relationship between cost of care and outcomes?
  • We know there is a correlation between health outcomes and wealth. Does that correlation skew the results?
  • Is there a difference based on ownership, not-for-profit, government, and for-profit?

The biggest single takeaway is that we need more data, more research like this. It helps us tell our story better and helps us figure out how to serve the older population in this country.