The Baby Boomer Revolutionization of Senior Living

Accustomed to an active and independent lifestyle, the 70 million-strong, outspoken Baby Boomer generation is not willing to bend as they consider aging into senior housing. Community operators are listening.

Suzann D. Silverman, Editorial Director

It was only a matter of time before senior housing followed in the footsteps of multifamily and student housing and took its amenities to a new level. After all, that huge, looming population of aging Baby Boomers has long shaped expectations for the sector, and with the oldest members of the 70 million-plus, influential generation turning 77 this year, even with the average age of residency climbing, more are trading in their homes to become members of independent living or higher-care facilities. And generally speaking, Baby Boomers have been more active and eager to maintain their lifestyle than members of earlier generations that have made the move. They’ve also been firmer and more outspoken about what they want.

So naturally they’re expecting more of what they’re used to in addition to the increased care they need as they age. The result is an increasingly holistic approach to senior housing, a step up even from the improved exercise facilities and entertainment options that have been added to the traditional bingo and book clubs in recent years. That follows the trajectory of standard multifamily offerings, which have been incorporating greater use of outdoor space for exercise and entertainment, sustainable elements that bring the outside in to promote a healthy atmosphere, and more dynamic community events.

The options can’t be exactly the same in senior housing, of course. After all, no matter how active they want to be, few 80-year-olds would actually make use of a climbing wall or strenuous hiking trail—real or even virtual. (To say nothing of the liability risks of these offerings.) And pets may not be part of the equation, although even that is changing.

But as with both multifamily and student housing, senior housing is now emphasizing lifestyle and experience, as Gabriel Frank discusses in his article “Today’s Seniors Want These Experience-Focused Amenities.” That could include a resident-involved garden or pickleball court, as at Methodist Retirement Communities’ Stevenson Oaks in Fort Worth. Or an art studio, bistro or fitness studio, as at KIRCO’s Monark Grove Clarkston outside Detroit. Events have also been stepped up, as has integration with nearby parks and shopping centers, as residents are increasingly asked for input. As Matt Coughenour, asset and acquisitions manager of senior housing for KIRCO, told Frank, Baby Boomers have “the potential to transform the senior living industry” as they seek more independence and demand new options.

What amenities are your Baby Boomer residents and prospects requesting? How are you balancing implementation against maintaining competitive pricing? What new concerns are emerging as you experiment? I’d love to hear your insights!

Read the MHN March Digest.

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