While much of the talk about demographic demand-drivers centers on Gen Y, there's another population poised to reshape the multifamily landscape.

The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates there will be more than 75 million people over the age of 60 living in America by 2020. This is up from more than 45 million people in 2000.

Rick Graf, for one, believes seniors in America are the biggest opportunity in the multifamily industry. Graf, president of Seattle-based Pinnacle, is in tune with the changing demographic trends nationally and has no doubt that seniors will provide a boost in the coming years. Pinnacle, one of the largest apartment managers, has about 15,000 units of senior housing within the company’s portfolio of more than 138,000 units, Graf said.

“Pinnacle manages a significant senior portfolio that includes tax-credit financed properties, bond finance properties and independent living facilities,” he says. “We are in that space in a big way.”

Other companies are also getting savvy to the notion that senior living will provide immense opportunities in the near future.

A branch of the Los Angeles-based company Kayne Anderson Capital recently closed a deal on an acquisition of six senior properties in Florida to gain some ground in the senior space. The division, Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors, or KAREA, obtained the portfolio which includes about 1,900 units of both independent senior living and assisted living options and was the company’s first acquisition in the senior housing market.

While KAREA was predominately a student housing company, they sold a large portion of the student assets off last year, says Al Rabil, CEO.

We had a big sale last year but we continue to acquire and develop in student housing,” he says. “That was a normal course of business, not a strategic allocation from one sector to another sector.”

Just as the company's focus on student housing was bolstered by swelling demographic trends, the company’s interest in the senior housing space is being driven by the aging Baby Boomer population, he says.

“We think there will be an increasing need for quality senior housing in this country,” Rabil says. “We think that Florida is one of the most desirable places to live for two reasons: weather and taxes.”

The acquisition brings KAREA into a partnership with Discovery Senior Living, an established senior housing development and management company. Rabil says teaming up with Discovery made sense because the company is familiar with this niche of the industry.

KAREA knows all too well the importance of operational expertise given its background with student housing, another operationally intense sector. Partnering with an experienced player can be key to finding success in seniors housing.

“It’s an operationally intensive business that obviously needs a great deal of expertise and some markets are stronger than others,” he says. “We’ve been around real estate long enough to not underestimate the importance of operations and operative challenges.”

Rabil says the company plans to continue seeking opportunities with Discovery to expand their presence in the senior space.

Lindsay Machak is an Assistant Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.