Responding to the needs of a new generation of seniors

According to a recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, 43% of Baby Boomers plan to stay in their current homes during retirement, which means that 57% – nearly six in ten– plan to move out.

According to the study, “Among Boomers who feel more confident about achieving their ideal retirement lifestyle compared to five years ago, the top factor is having a retirement lifestyle plan (49%). This mindset shows us that, for Boomers getting ready to retire, there’s more to it than solely saving money in the bank. To have the utmost confidence in their retirement plan, this generation is actively planning a comprehensive lifestyle plan, taking into account the type of home and community they want to live in, as well as the option of continuing to work or taking advantage of travel and entertainment opportunities.”

The study represents a big opportunity for senior living communities because it highlights the fact that many retiring seniors are looking for a change. Even if many of them have not yet considered retiring in a senior living community, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility they are willing to explore. But…

Today’s seniors are not interested in the senior living communities of their parents and grandparents.

To attract and fulfill the desires of active baby boomers, continuing care retirement communities, also known as life plan communities, are popping up across the country. These communities include everything from state-of-the-art fitness centers to gourmet dining and a long list of social events and activities. Far from the senior living options of the past, these communities are built around the idea of aging in place and recognize that today’s seniors expect to spend their retirement years actively engaged in things that bring them personal satisfaction.

Here are five ideas for how senior living communities can appeal to this new generation of seniors: 

1. Empower their ability to make their own decisions.

Today’s seniors are accustomed to making their own decisions about how they live their life and they don’t intend to relinquish the right. This means that simply handing them information about a senior living community and hoping that they’ll take it at face value is unlikely to work. For many, this feels too much like being told what to do. They aren’t interested in the typical one-way sales presentation where they play the part of the passive listener. They want to feel empowered to ask questions and challenge assertions.

For communities wishing to target the boomer population, a collaborative process is likely to be more effective. For example, a community might host round table discussions with current residents, caregivers, and sales professionals during which prospective residents can engage in a casual discussion about life within the community.

Another idea is to host community events on campus and make some of the amenities available to non-residents. For example, Good Samaritan Society – Mountain Home, a senior living community in Arkansas, recently constructed a new wellness center that’s open to both residents and non-residents.

“There is a constant stream of Good Samaritan Society residents and seniors from the surrounding community exercising on the HUR equipment, taking a class, or attending a seminar”, explains Bethany Clark, the community’s Wellness Director. “We receive quite a few people from the surrounding community every week who stop in and want to check it out. They’ve heard about the Center from their friends or neighbors and want to see what the buzz is all about.  Perhaps most impressively, our outpatient program has grown by 300%.”

2. Support their drive to remain independent.

Another way to attract younger residents through empowering them to remain independent is to offer on-campus amenities and activities that support their health and wellbeing. Staying active – or even becoming more active than they’ve been in the past – is a high priority for many of today’s seniors. Amenities such as state-of-the-art fitness centers equipped with high-tech equipment, and a wide variety of fitness classes that include at least a few unconventional options, are a significant draw.

Baby Boomers do not consider themselves “old” and they most certainly do not want to be treated like “old people.” Many put off hobbies and other interests when they were young and busy with work and children and view retirement as a chance to try new things. Senior living communities that support a vibrant, active community life in which people of all interests and ability levels can engage in activities they enjoy appeal to their independent nature.

3. Invest in Technology.

Baby Boomers are plugged in. 59% of adults between the ages of 65 and 69 own a smartphone, and 67% use the internet on a regular basis. What’s more, they aren’t just plugged into their phones, computers, and tablets. They are plugged into their cars, watches, and home entertainment and security systems. They are rapidly embracing the digital age and expect technology to support their lifestyle throughout retirement.

For senior living communities, this means access to in-room computers and campus-wide Wi-Fi signal – at minimum. To really attract the attention of younger seniors, technology must support their entire quality of life.  For example, Fairways of Ironhorse, a new senior living community in Kansas, is equipping every home with voice-activated technology that allows residents to order room service, have their car pulled up to the front door, receive automatic voice audio calendar reminders, or make a reservation.

“In addition, our fitness center is equipped with HUR SmartTouch machines that automatically displays and tracks each resident’s personalized training program”, explains Bridget Snodgrass, VP Senior Operations, Overland Property Group. “We are utilizing technology to create a community that supports the health and independence of residents, and encourages them to spend their days doing all the things they enjoy the most.” 

4. Provide Personalized Care. 

Custom wellness plans that match the interests, abilities, daily routines, and lifestyle choices of each resident are appealing to many of today’s seniors. For example, one senior living community in Texas provides every resident with access to a healthcare navigator who guides them through preventive wellness services, fitness and exercise activities, and nutrition choices. Paradise Valley Estates in California recently launched a personal training program that’s become one of the community’s most popular programs.

Additionally, communities can make healthcare more accessible by providing transportation to doctors’ offices, bringing clinics on-site, and creating continuity across multiple levels of care.

The community of Presbyterian Village North  is a great example of this concept. They created a collaborative wellness program that provides a seamless transition between their rehab and independent living through “Get Fit”, a one on one personal training program. The Get Fit plan is designed by the treating therapist (PT, OT or SLP) and carried out by one of our degreed exercise physiologist wellness teammates.

5. Luxury amenities and sustainable practices.

As they enter their retirement years, many of today’s seniors want to downsize their homes but “upsize” other aspects of their lives. For senior living communities, this means adding luxury amenities such as state-of-the-art fitness and aquatic centers, juice bars, wine bars, and fine dining options, amphitheaters that showcase community plays and presentations, and even hair salons and on-site banking. It also means recognizing that many seniors are attracted to the idea of upscale entertainment for friends and family and providing opportunities for them to do so.

In addition to luxury amenities, an increasing number of baby boomers are environmentally conscious, and for them, “going green” starts at home. As a result, many life plan communities are implementing environmentally friendly initiatives such as gardening activities, composting opportunities, and even bee raising programs. Some communities are focused on serving food that’s locally grown using sustainable practices, fresh and in season.