Media Contact: Beth McGroarty
[email protected] • +1.213.300.0107

Global Wellness Institute Releases Report from its Roundtable
on Wellness Communities & lifestyle Real Estate 

Experts identified future directions for this $119 billion market: from the need to expand offerings beyond the wealthy to a keener focus on social connection among residents

Miami, FL – April 6, 2017 – The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is known for its international roundtables that bring together multidisciplinary leaders for high-level discussions about growing wellness industry markets and issues. And recently, twenty leaders from urban design, architecture, real estate investment, hospitality, medicine and fitness gathered to discuss one of today’s fastest-growing wellness markets: wellness real estate and communities. According to recent GWI research, the global market for “homes and communities proactively designed for residents’ physical, mental, social and environmental health”* grew roughly 20% from 2013-2015 (to reach $119 billion). 

The roundtable experts identified factors that need to be put front-and-center to “build well” and grow the sector in the future: from expanding the focus from “green-field” developments to “making well” existing communities to embracing intergenerational living models to heeding insights coming from science and technology, like the emerging discipline of the neuroscience of architecture. 

Read the full report (and participant list) here.

The roundtable, held at Steelcase headquarters in NYC, was moderated by Susie Ellis, GWI chairman and CEO and Mia Kyricos, chair of GWI’s Wellness Communities Initiative and president, Kyricos & Associates, LLC. It was designed to jumpstart a discussion on the topic in advance of the GWI’s (first-ever) research report on the wellness real estate/communities market, to be introduced October 9-11 at the Global Wellness Summit taking place at The Breakers Palm Beach, Florida. 

Global wellness communities’ concepts are extremely diverse: whether launched developments, like Serenbe (outside Atlanta, GA), Lake Nona (Orlando, FL) or BedZED (UK) – or those under development, like Avira (Malaysia) or Llanelli Wellness Village (Wales). To explore sample developments, visit Wellness Communities Resources

Ten Expert Recommendations for the Future 

1) Gather & communicate metrics – yes, developer ROI, but also total “return-on-wellness”
Developers reported that there is mounting positive ROI data: for instance, wellness homes typically command 5-25% premiums. But the “astonishing data” exists beyond traditional real estate metrics, in measuring/monetizing the hard return of improved resident health measures (lowered healthcare costs, improved productivity). This multi-dimensional data needs to be gathered, and more clearly broadcast to investors, buyers/renters and governments, to move the market from niche to mainstream. 

2) Focus on holistic wellness living – not just gyms and spas
A macro shift at wellness tourism destinations (spas, health resorts, etc.) is from narrow, amenities-based healthy programming to “total” wellness (whether air, water, light, food, sleep and acoustic quality). People seek physical fitness, but also social, emotional and mental/cognitive aspects, along with family, community and environmental wellbeing. Integrated wellness is also the future of wellness real estate. 

3) Expand the concept to lower-income communities
The focus has been on high-end offerings (those multi-million-dollar wellbeing condos), but new models must be created for lower- and middle-income populations, as the “gated” community is by nature un-well. Experts offered myriad solutions: from adopting key wellness living components (healthy air, water, light, etc.) that cost just pennies-per-day to reducing cars/car parks which keep building costs down to adopting “sharing” economy models to lab-style testing that can identify replicable wellness designs that deliver the biggest “health bang for the buck” – and applying them to lower-income communities. 

4) Focus less narrowly on “green-field” developments
The focus has been on built-from-the-ground-up projects, but experts concurred that from an environmental and affordability standpoint, it’s better to build on (and “make well”) 
existing communities, which are also far more likely to be vibrant and intergenerational. With a global urbanization crush, making cities crushingly expensive, urban-near communities are key markets for wellness (re) development. 

5) Foster human connection in our global “Age of Loneliness”
Many countries are reporting epidemics of loneliness and studies show that as a predictor of early death, loneliness now trumps obesity. Wellness communities could become crucial players in eradicating this massive public health issue by designing for human connection, and building in “microcosms of familiarity” where residents seamlessly “bump into” – and socialize and work with – neighbors. 

6) Embrace multi-generational living
Where we live across our lifespan is increasingly segmented by age: cities are fast becoming places for young people (children are disappearing), suburbs are the domain of families, with the elderly shunted into retirement communities. But research shows that it’s not healthy for people to only interact with people at the same life-stage. Future wellness communities need to create models for “living well in place” and where all ages connect – as models placing older people together with young children have had “magnificent outcomes.” 

7) Ensure walkability and easy access to work, schools, etc. 
Many gorgeous wellness communities have the three crucial components – environmental sustainability, wellness lifestyle programs, and community – in place. But when people can’t access their jobs or schools close to where they live, they can never be entirely environmental or “well” concepts. Future wellness communities need to foster walkability and build around public transport to move beyond the serious problems associated with car-based developments (particularly acute in the U.S.). 

8) Simplicity = Real Wellness
With the endless profusion of new wellness approaches/technologies, wellness community models can become overly complex. But the simpler we live, the more naturally true wellness follows. Future communities need to grasp that some of the happiest, fittest people live in the poorest communities; that wellness is not a pocketbook by-product; that the living-well concepts need to be simplified for consumers to grasp them; and that rather than overly “master-planning” for wellness, we need return to (lost) wellbeing basics like human connection and trust, green space, and healthy food. 

9) Science will transform future approaches
Tech and science innovations will dramatically transform “building well” in the future. Whether AI or the growing interest in the neuroscience of archit
ecture (see: the Salk Institute’s ANFA), the study of brain/behavioral responses to architectural/living spaces should provide new evidence-based directions for wellness community design.

10) Healthy growth ahead
Experts agreed that the wellness real estate market is “at the tip of the iceberg,” that it’s the “next frontier” in the vast $3.7 trillion wellness industry, and that they no longer need to create demand, they have the privilege to cater to it. A $119 billion market in 2015, GWI researchers estimate (conservatively) that it will jump to $153 billion by 2020. (Access the GWI’s 2017 “Global Wellness Economy Report” for the first regional market data on wellness communities.) 

To learn more about the GWI, contact Beth McGroarty: [email protected] or (+1) 213.300.0107

*For definitions (and minimum requirements) of wellness real estate/communities, see the Wellness Communities Initiative’s recent white paper.

About the Global Wellness Institute: The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit 501(c)(3), is considered the leading global research and educational resource for the global wellness industry, and is known for introducing major industry initiatives and regional events that bring together leaders and visionaries to chart the future. GWI positively impacts global health and wellness by advocating for both public institutions and businesses that are working to help prevent disease, reduce stress, and enhance overall quality of life. Its mission is to empower wellness worldwide.