January 10, 2024
This article is part of a series on Senior Living published on HappyValley Industry. The original article appears here.
Seniors coming home to a place they love
By Holly Riddle
Pay any attention to news surrounding senior care, and you’ll likely hear a few of the same themes over and over again. “We’re approaching a senior care crisis.” “Senior care is more expensive than ever.” “The senior population is growing at an unsustainable rate.”
Some of these claims are more or less rooted in truth. According to a Harvard 2023 study on housing America’s older adults, America’s senior population, defined as those ages 65 and up, is growing. In 2022, this population numbered approximately 58 million individuals (up from 43 million in 2012). While the study found that the majority of these seniors live in their own homes or with a family member, about 2.5% live in senior communities — so about 1.45 million people.
Pennsylvania is well-equipped to serve the state’s seniors, and Happy Valley is at the forefront
More than 2.5 million seniors call Pennsylvania home. The American Health Care Association reported more than 1,100 assisted living and personal care homes in the state, offering nearly 70,000 beds. If the national percentages apply to Pennsylvania as well, then, we can assume that 2.5% of our seniors will need or want to live in a senior community, and that’s 62,500 people, for 70,000 beds.
Pennsylvania is well-equipped to serve the state’s seniors, and Happy Valley is at the forefront, where senior care is a thriving industry that taps into the state’s $1.62 billion total economic activity generated by assisted living.
Meeting today’s needs and anticipating the future
For many in the business of senior care in Happy Valley, recent growth in the area’s senior care options is simply a direct response to growing demands.
Jennifer Getgen, executive director at Juniper Village Senior Living at Brookline, noted, “The growth of senior living options is a direct reflection on the surge in senior population. Our Baby Boomers will all be retirement age, 65, by 2030, and life expectancy is generally longer than prior generations, given the better healthcare and nutritional advantages available.”
She added, “There are a lot more options in senior living, so now families and seniors can be more selective in what would work best for them.”
Plentiful options, though, doesn’t necessarily mean that all the gaps are filled. At Valley View Retirement Community, in Belleville, the organization performed a market study in 2022 that revealed “a large need for memory care in central Pennsylvania.” As such, the retirement community is expanding to meet that need, starting in 2024.
“As senior care providers, we have an obligation to know the needs and preferences of those we serve today or will serve in the future,” Valley View CEO Nicole Sarver explained. “…People are living longer than they were 50 years ago, and many need care during the later seasons of life. A big push has been for more wrap-around, in-home services that are created for people who desire to stay at home. Even with local growth in home and community-based services, we still see strong interest in and demand for the services we provide.”
I think there’s always room for additional communities across State College and Centre County
Mark Sapko, owner of Senior Living Placement Specialists, started his business about three years ago, with the aim of helping regional seniors and their families find the best living facilities to meet their needs. The business provides free care need assessments and then connects families with area facilities best suited to their requirements.
“As the Baby Boom population ages, there’s going to be an increased need,” he said. “There’s still a waitlist for some of the different independent living facilities in the area…I think there’s always room for additional communities across State College and Centre County.”
The Happy Valley appeal
Many in the regional senior care industry are seeing not just growing needs from the area’s existing aging population — some notice that seniors are actively relocating to retire and age in Happy Valley, too. This is for myriad reasons. Some are Penn State alumni and love the area; some have family nearby.
Sarver said, “Our personal experience shows that, instead of moving to a warmer state or moving to be near their grown children, many seniors want to come home to a place that they love. We have many residents who moved back — some from Hawaii, Florida, overseas — to what they call ‘God’s country’ and see mountains and cornfields and beautiful sunsets.”
Similarly, Sapko also mentioned how a good portion of his clients are those who retired to Happy Valley within the last 15 to 20 years and, as their needs have changed, they’ve sought out assisted living communities.
Our personal experience shows that, instead of moving to a warmer state or moving to be near their grown children, many seniors want to come home to a place that they love
“State College has kept up with these needs over the last few years,” he said. “There have been a few more facilities built to help with this population… State College is a growing community and a lot of individuals who…went to school here, they want to come back here. Maybe they have kids or grandkids in the area and they want to be closer to their families. Especially with Covid, some individuals wanted to leave the city and State College offers a small city feel, but is also remote and, with the university, there’s still activities and events.”
We’re covering senior living in Happy Valley for the next four weeks. Stay tuned for more insights on the costs of senior care, what today’s seniors demand and the process of choosing the best senior living facility in Happy Valley.