Study Finds Boomers Unhappy with Traditional Retirement Communities

A recent study reveals that "traditional" retirement communities might become a thing of the past for boomers, unless some important changes are made.

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

Harrisburg, Pa.—A recent study called “The Next Generation: Understanding What the Boomer Consumer Wants from Retirement Living” from Varsity, a marketing company based in Harrisburg, Pa., reveals that “traditional” retirement communities might become a thing of the past for boomers, unless some important changes are made.

“Baby boomers are continually impacting a number of consumer areas, and the traditional retirement community is no exception,” Derek Dunham, mature marketing strategist, Varsity, tells MHN. “They’re healthier, more tech [savvy], better educated, more and more discerning in their consumer tastes. The role they play will shape design, branding and marketing for years to come.”

As the boomer population ages, demand for retirement communities grows. However, according to the study, which is based on focus group findings and tours of retirement communities, “these potential residents are working longer, increasingly seeking younger-feeling, more active options, or are remaining in their homes until physically unable.” These people no longer see a need for some “traditional” elements in senior housing.

“[According to the study,] in terms of actual living spaces, the consensus was that current bedroom configurations will not accommodate a king or queen bed, and many kitchens will not accommodate two persons (and many noted that they enjoy cooking together),” Dunham says. “Opulent common spaces and high-end appearing living units are frowned upon, and seem to be a hold-over from the housing boom.”

Today’s seniors are as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, and expect their housing to be equipped for it.

“Our subjects stressed the fact that technology will play a key role, as many of them plan on bringing two computers,” Dunham explains. “That translates into a need for a workstation, along with a sufficient number of data ports, AC outlets and coaxial connections. They also believed that WiFi should be offered as a standard amenity, and many communities still don’t offer that.”

Residents of retirement communities also were concerned with the size of their apartments.

“Likewise, their desire for adequate storage possibly reflects their attitude toward downsizing, or refusing to do so. Although they generally had favorable reviews on closet space, garages and other storage options in detached living units, they had concerns with that when it came to apartments, and many of them plan on skipping ‘owning another house’ and moving straight into an apartment,” Dunham says.

“There was also an aversion to high entrance fees, probably due in part to declining home values. Some suggested alternatives ranged from a traditional mortgage or rental to the option to purchase an apartment, similar to a condo or coop.”

Varsity’s study provided a revealing look at how baby boomers view their current retirement communities. According to the study:

  • Many living spaces are deemed too small or too opulent and do not provide storage space.
  • Transportation should be on-demand.
  • Dinging should not be a formal event, and must include healthy options.
  • “Green” labels are met with skepticism.
  • Payment options are too limited, and should include traditional mortgage or rent structures.
  • Healthcare must be available, and should include memory support.

“Boomers won’t accept the same types of housing that their parents or grandparents lived in, nor will they be content to relax by the pool or play shuffleboard,” Dunham says. “They’re looking for housing that is neither too large nor too small, and expect their living units and common areas that are designed on the basis of modernity, healthcare, technology and an active lifestyle.”

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