Senior housing is America's largest growth industry designed to address the needs of seniors seeking active adult (age 55 and older), independent living, assisted living, memory care, or continuing care retirement community housing. In response to this need, the senior housing industry has grown to nearly 50,000 communities, housing nearly 2 million seniors in the United States, as well as in nations around the world. In the United States, such communities have grown to outnumber traditional skilled nursing facilities ("nursing homes") by more than 3-to-1, by providing housing and care for seniors who may require social environments and/or assistance with daily needs, but do not require 24-hour skilled nursing care. In this regard, assisted living communities represent the vast majority of all senior housing, with an estimated 38,000 communities located throughout the United States.
More significantly, the recent growth of senior housing is in advance of the "seniors boom," which is predicted to offer many of the most rapidly growing career opportunities as the baby boom generation ages. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 78 million Americans are represented by this generation (born between 1946 and 1964), the first of which reached age 65 in 2011. By 2030, one of every five U.S. citizens will be over the age of 65. This changing demographic is not unique to the United States. By 2050, there will be more individuals worldwide over the age of 60 than under the age of 15 for the first time in human history.
The long-term national and international growth of the senior housing industry is anticipated to follow that of this aging population over the next 20 to 30 years. Anyone interested in developing a career in health care, hospitality, administration, marketing, aging, or social services should consider the opportunities represented by senior housing. The senior housing administration concentration at George Mason University is the first curriculum of its kind in the United States, offering a one-of-a-kind career opportunity experience.
What is Senior Housing?
Senior housing provides residential-style living for older adults with services that may range from hospitality features (such as activities, dining, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and 24-hour security) to health care services (including medication management, dressing, bathing, and other physical care). Typically, active adult or independent living communities will focus on residential housing and hospitality services for 100 to 500 residents; assisted living communities will offer both hospitality and health care services for 40 to 100 residents; and continuing care retirement communities will offer a full range of hospitality and health care services through independent, assisted, and even skilled nursing facilities, located on a single campus and housing 200 to more than 2,000 residents. As available, the provision of a range of services allows individuals to "age in place" in an environment that offers choice, dignity, and autonomy. Many assisted living and continuing care retirement communities additionally offer housing and care for people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, provided in specially designed, memory care environments.
Who is in the Senior Housing Business?
Approximately 80 percent of all senior housing communities are owned or operated by private or publicly held companies. In 2015, Brookdale, Holiday Retirement, and Sunrise Senior Living were among the nation’s largest providers, totaling more than 1,600 communities that serve more than 180,000 residents. The remaining 20 percent of the industry is represented by nonprofit, primarily religious organizations. Sunrise Senior Living is corporately based within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, along with the industry's three leading associations: the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA), the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), and Leading Age. Many other senior housing providers and consumer organizations are located in the nation’s capitol as well, including AARP and the National Alzheimer’s Association, providing a valuable resource and opportunities for the students of the senior housing administration concentration.
What Kind of Jobs are Available in Senior Housing?
Opportunities exist for community administrators and resident care, marketing, activity, and support services directors in nearly every geographic location in the United States. These positions, in turn, offer the opportunity for advancement to executive positions at the regional, divisional, national, and even international level. Corporate-level management and staff positions are also needed in areas including community and program development, human resources, IT/technology, quality improvement/risk management, and policy and regulatory oversight. The senior housing administration concentration is designed to provide students with the leadership and technical skills necessary to succeed in these positions.
To assist in this process, students within the program may complete internships within a senior housing community, association, or consumer organization. These internships are a senior year requirement for students completing the undergraduate concentration.