The Baby Boomers are coming! The Baby Boomers are coming!
It’s the shout heard around the senior living industry, and communities all across the U.S. are gearing up to meet the retirement living demands of this unique generation of more than 72 million people. The 2020’s promise to be roaring with change, and here are some of the key trends to watch:
- Catering to active seniors
A recent article in the January 2020 issue of Dallas magazine points to a multitude of ways retirement communities have upgraded services and options to create environments that cater to active senior adults. This includes a lock-and-leave lifestyle with chef-prepared meals, concierge services and opportunities for travel, exercise, hobbies and a full calendar of social activities. The freedom from household chores is particularly appealing to seniors. It provides even more time for those who still work, or who enjoy volunteering on a regular basis.
As author Jennifer Sander Hayes notes, “Growing older is a privilege, and thanks to today’s upgraded retirement communities, it’s one that can be enjoyed in style. Living in a retirement community isn’t what it once was, and that’s a good thing.”
2. Emphasizing hospitality
Today’s senior living communities strive to combine hotel and resort amenities with inspiring living spaces and beautiful outdoor environments. In addition, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) offer an aging-in-place safety net with higher levels of care and health care services.
“Throughout the continuum, this industry is focused on hospitality now more than ever,” says Alyssa Adam, chief marketing officer for The Legacy Senior Communities. “The Baby Boomers share a preference for convenience, control and choice. Their demands are much different than the generations before them. They are interested in maintaining a lifestyle during retirement that is leveled up in fun and convenience from what they enjoy now. They want to pick up and do whatever they want, when they want.”
3. Honing in on Dining
One important area of hospitality focus is dining, and some of the most notable changes are taking place here. For instance, The Legacy Midtown Park, a new urban retirement community in Dallas set to begin opening in 2020 and 2021, will feature three dining venues: A casual café that serves food all day; a fine dining restaurant, and a full-service pub. The dining options will also include an all-glass Chef’s Table private dining room as well as a full kosher menu.
“Retirement communities are moving away from the suit-and-tie dining experience toward more casual options,” says Adam. “Many have also incorporated billiards parlors, lounges and sports bars. That’s another driver Baby Boomers have created. They want choice and more control over their lifestyle, free from limitations. That translates into tons of hospitality and flexibility, particularly in dining.”
4. Smartsizing Living Choices
Baby Boomers are also interested in the growing trend toward “smartsizing.” The term “smartsizing” refers to the concept of simplifying one’s living spaces and focusing more on lifestyle. Rather than downsizing, which prior generations viewed with visions of loss and letting go, smartsizing appeals to Baby Boomers because it’s all about finding a space that fits both your living and lifestyle needs to a tee.
Baby Boomers are not new to moving. On average, they have moved seven times during their lifetimes. Therefore, the concept of simplifying one’s belongings and making a life-changing move that provides more social interaction, less financial complexity and a space that suits their needs and style can be immensely appealing.
To catch the smartsizing wave, the industry is gearing up to provide more choices in living spaces. Seniors now have a wide range of options available, compared to the 600 to 800 square foot apartments that were commonly built when retirement communities first came into existence. In the past decade, larger condo flats, apartments and townhomes began appearing that offer 1,200 to 2,000 square feet in both urban and suburban locations. Some retirement communities also offer single-family patio homes and townhomes arranged in quaint neighborhoods. You can find them on the same campus as the main building that houses independent living, assisted living/memory support and health care services.
Over-55 communities that cater to the active adult are also springing up across the country. These communities typically cater to the 55 to 65 age group known as “Zoomers.” They offer housing situated among recreational facilities such as golf courses, nature trails, aquatic facilities and hobby facilities, but most do not offer higher levels of care or health care services.
Other options on the horizon include the converting of closed malls, hotels or other outdated facilities into senior housing. The development of urban locations, whether new or redeveloped, appeals in particular to Boomers who desire to mix and mingle with people of multiple generations.
5. Adding Smart-Home Technology
Smart lights, smart thermostats, smart appliances, sophisticated security systems and 5G networks are the new must-haves for senior living communities. Baby Boomers are largely a wired generation, having adopted the use of cell phones, email and computers during their working years. They want efficient, reliable internet service, cable TV options and smart home devices like Alexa.
The trend in technologies is moving from reporting to predicting — such as moving from recording the number of steps taken in a day to warning if an irregular heart rate is detected. Other predictive technologies include sensors in floors that help identify seniors at risk of falls. Telemedicine is already taking off, bringing the ability to have a face-to-face conversation with a doctor without leaving home. It’s exciting to watch as the industry adopts new technologies that allow people to live the way they want, with the help of multiple smart technology modalities.
What else can you expect for the new Roaring 20’s of senior living? Fun colors. Fresh interior design. An energized feeling. It’s all about senior living with style. Boomers are ready for more variety in furnishings and finishes, more layering of textures, patterns and colors. Expect to see more open floor plans in living spaces and more multi-use designs in common areas. Dining rooms that sit empty for most of the day will serve as meeting rooms or lecture halls—or something even more creative—as sliding doors create new spaces and functions. Outdoor destination spaces will appear on campuses where people can relax or play. Bars with self-serve systems will rise in popularity.
It’s a fun and exciting time for the industry, and Baby Boomers are the lucky recipients of attention as senior living communities across the country vie to create spaces that anyone would want to call home.