Today, Baby Boomers, the post-WWII generation of children born between 1946 and 1964, are playing an increasingly influential role in the senior living decisions of their aging parents. “Boomer” women, in particular, are playing a highly proactive role in helping to research options and shape their parents’ thinking on retirement living.
Soon, the world’s first “Teenagers”, who became the “Me Generation”, will be making decisions about their own retirement lifestyles and living preferences. And as they’ve done throughout the course of their lives, this enormous group of 77.3 million Americans will reshape the entire senior living industry around their own expectations and demands.
Trends in Senior Living
“The population is aging, and more consumers can demand more choices,” says Andrew Carle, founding director of the Senior Housing Administration program at George Mason University, in an article from FOX Business News, entitled “Boomers Reinventing Senior Living; No Longer One-Size-Fits-All” by Alyssa Gerace.
What types of choices will boomers demand? Examining their attitudes and preferences provides some insight. Boomers say:
- They want to continue to live in their own homes and local communities, utilizing professional support services when necessary.
- They want “real community” in an affordable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with greenspace and activities.
- Staying engaged and socially involved is very important to them.
- They will opt for semi-retirement, continuing to work part time.
- They consider themselves younger, fitter and more active than previous same-age generations.
- They enjoy vibrant, age-diverse community life.
- They need to be fully “wired”
The senior housing industry is already reinventing itself to meet changing needs with highly tailored retirement communities for specific demographic and lifestyle groups, centers that emphasize lifelong learning, “villages” that enable retirees to age at home and more. According to Newsweek, “Seniors are signing up for semi-communal enclaves, with separate homes but a supportive community…. The idea is to bring back a time when neighbors were an integral part of one another’s lives, sharing meals, recreation and providing a helping hand.”
Stay-at-Home Models Emerging
Despite the growing specialization of assisted living facilities, the vast majority of seniors would prefer to age in place, notes Nancy Thompson, AARP spokeswoman.
A new grassroots model of assisted living, called “Villages”, is helping seniors remain in their own homes as they age, while still offering the support services they need, including personal care, help with yardwork, trips to the grocery store and social outlets.
Such villages, which are typically run by neighborhood volunteers, are funded by annual membership dues and are open to seniors within a specific community.
Dues range from $50 to $1,500 a year, but the average is $430, says Candace Baldwin, Director of Strategy for Aging in Community with the Village to Village Network in Arlington, VA.
To date, there are about 90 such villages across the country, including Beacon Hill Village in Boston, and 130 more under development.
No More One Size Fits ALL
Senior housing options are no longer one-size-fits-all. “Fifty years ago, people didn’t live as long and their families took care of them,” says Carle. “Now, seniors are living longer and looking for different housing options.” Baby boomers have “exploded the portfolio of products at every stage of their lives,” says Carle, noting there was only one flavor of Coke when they were born.
As Boomers reach retirement age, senior housing options are proving no different. New models will continue to be created around the needs and specifications of this very large and demanding societal group. They will be the “800 pound Gorilla” of senior living.