Urban opportunities for providers

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

When you think of the top places people want to retire to, the location that comes to mind probably isn't a huge, bustling city.

After all, rankings covered by our sister publication McKnight's Senior Living would suggest that smaller, quieter cities and suburbs are the places older adults prefer to spend their retirements. When it comes to states, places like Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota landed at the top of another list — not exactly states known for their urban sprawl.

But there's good news for long-term care providers in larger cities — your future customers most likely aren't going anywhere. That's according to Welltower's new Aging in Cities survey, released this week.

The key finding of this survey of more than 3,000 urban dwelling adults, ranging from millennials to baby boomers, was that the overwhelming majority of respondents would prefer to stay in their current city (including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.,) when they're over 80 years old. In fact, populations of older adults may continue to grow in urban locations, according to Welltower.

“Urban centers with a high quality of life are experiencing double-digit growth of the aging population,” Mercedes Kerr, executive vice president for Welltower, said in the survey.

The drivers behind that choice are what you'd expect. People living in cities currently want to maintain their connections to friends and family, have access to scenic areas and be able to attend cultural experiences when they're older.

But the factor the respondents ranked more important than any other at their current age, and likely to be most important when they're over 80 years old, is high quality healthcare. Which is where you, as long-term care providers, come in, of course.

The survey asked city dwellers how they felt about the options for aging adults where they currently live. The vast majority of the health-related areas respondents said their cities could do better in involved long-term care."

Topping the list was different options for aging at home — 47% of respondents said their locations could do better. Forty percent and 33% also said their cities need more senior living and memory care facilities, respectively. The survey also showed 28% of adults think their cities need more modern, high-quality hospitals and healthcare facilities.

When it comes to more specific needs, 84% of those surveyed said a loss of mobility is one of their top concerns for when they hit 80 years old. Two-thirds of respondents said they're also worried about developing dementia at that age.

What is an enterprising provider to do? Take a look at the market, and see if your city is meeting the needs and concerns expressed by adults in the Welltower survey. In New York City, for example, the population of adults over age 60 jumped by 12% between 2000 and 2010 — six times faster than the city's total population growth. But the services for that aging group are lacking.

“Despite this [growth], Manhattan is one of many vastly under-served locations when it comes to quality senior care: Its availability of assisted living facilities is five times below the national average,” Kerr reported.

So listen to the wants and needs to aging adults in your area, city-dwellers. They're more likely to stay in the city than to head off to a sunny retirement in a quiet town in Florida or Arizona than you may think. And they'll be looking for high quality long-term care — with an urban flair.

Follow Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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