A Pulse Check on Seniors Housing in Alberta

Not surprisingly, this past year and a half has been like no other for retirement residences and supportive living communities.  Before the pandemic the balance of supply and demand in the private and public sectors were pretty typical.  Private retirement residences were around 80-85% capacity with always a little more supply than demand. This is a comfortable spot for our senior clients who are looking for a great match to their needs and wants.  There might be a short wait list for certain types of suites (often 2 bedrooms) but with reasonable planning we could find a great fit with no problem.  In the public sector the reverse but also normal state held.  There was more demand than supply but finding a supportive living or long term care room somewhere would take a few weeks and, as per normal, the facilities with higher demand had significantly longer wait lists.  Opening of a few new locations helped to ease some of the pressure. 

Midway through the pandemic we were seeing seniors delaying their decision to move to private retirement residences and/or residences pausing on intakes due to covid concerns, as such vacancies steadily decreased in most locations often dropping down to around 60% occupancy.  Similarly in the public sector, intakes were slowed or stopped due to covid precautions.  Supportive living and long term care centers started to have lower and lower numbers of residents.  Unfortunately one of the results of this crisis was that seniors who were ready for more support and care were not getting it, they were staying home and in many cases seeing significant health deterioration (physical, mental and cognitive).  By this spring we were very busy working with seniors who were in really dire need for supported residential care.

Now, through this 4th wave of the pandemic, we are seeing the pendulum swing the other way.  Vaccination rates in the senior population are high and facility outbreaks are low.  Private retirement residences are filling back up, with many communities nearing full capacity.  We normally see an increase in moves as winter nears but there seems to be quite a significant influx of seniors ready to transition to a lifestyle where both care and social connectivity are built in.  In the public facilities we are seeing a dramatic push to move seniors who are in the hospital into community care rooms.  The hospitals are trying to keep as many beds open as possible so they can care for covid patients and also to reduce risk of hospital transmission.  Supportive living and long term care filled back up and now seniors coming from hospital may be required to take a ‘first available placement’, meaning there is not as much choice in location.  Another important challenge we are seeing is that seniors who are wanting public placement from home are having to wait much, much longer.  Movement from city to city within the province has a very long wait and movement from out of province is essentially stopped. 

So, what does this all mean for our audience.  Well first of all, if you are considering a move (into private or public) don’t put off reaching out to us for support.  The longer lead time we have, the more options and opportunities we can pursue for you.  Even if you don’t intend to move until next year, the more time we have to work with, the better strategies and options we can come up with.  Secondly, if you are doing well at home and intending to stay there for as long as possible, it is still a good idea to talk to us about contingency planning or what we call Plan B.  It is important to have spent some time narrowing down what you would want (and wouldn’t want) in a seniors residence in case things change and you need to make an adjustment to your plan.  It is not ideal to have to make these decisions in a crisis, especially when there are tighter constraints on what is available.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime for a chat about seniors housing.  We have the most amazing, knowledgeable and compassionate team of advisors and they are always happy to help.