Data from the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry’s analysis service indicates the senior housing market is improving, Multi-Housing News reports.

The average occupancy rate reached 88.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, marking the seventh consecutive month of improved occupancy, although the quarterly increase was only 0.1 percent and the year-over-year growth was only 0.7 percent.

Despite the slow pace of improvement, the source notes, stakeholders may be pleased with the consistency of growth since the recent low of 87.1 percent at the beginning of 2010. The quarterly improvement was all focused on independent living properties, according to the source.

According to analysts, independent has led the sector's recovery, possibly because it is less need-driven than assisted living and thus suffered more during economic troubles. While they noted this was unexpected, analysts also indicated the slow and steady pace of recovery seems characteristic of the current economy, based on other property sectors.

Growing consumer confidence and improving fundamentals may mean seniors who live independently are more prepared to spend on rental housing. Rental property management firms which focus on meeting seniors' needs could benefit from this.