You have probably heard quite a bit lately about the effect baby boomers are having on the economy, the healthcare industry, and the society in general as they begin their transition to retirement. Well, the senior housing market is not different.
Not only is this massive boomer generation now moving into their retirement years, but increased longevity is leading to longer retirements. And just as they changed things in decades past, they are now redefining senior living, with many of them eager to trade in daytime TV and bingo for yoga classes and iPads.
How and where baby boomers choose to live is having widespread implications for the different ways senior homes and communities are designed, and how the real estate industry and development organizations should prepare for this aging population.
The boomer housing boom
Baby boomers are the here and now of the next decade of housing demand. This represents a major demographically-driven opportunity for developers -and they are responding.
The challenge faced by many real estate developers alike is how to attract a new clientele that is much different from the current senior population and has a completely different perspective on retirement living from that of their predecessors.
As a developer, understanding boomers’ wants and desires for their next phase of living and integrating them into your projects is a surefire method to increase ROI in your development undertakings. The new retirees have expectations, and delivering, or even surpassing, these expectations means that you can leverage high-performance design for development opportunities.
As new senior living communities are being built or repositioned, developers across the United States are enhancing their amenity packages to include features such as wellness centers (including activities like yoga, meditation, and tai chi), expanded dining options that one might find in an upscale hotel, as well as concierge-type fee-for-services. Also, as boomers are becoming more and more comfortable in the digital age, communities are incorporating a wide range of new technologies, from ensuring dependable Wi-Fi access, to offering health-monitoring devices that help to manage medications, monitor vital signs, or activate an alert when fall-prone residents are at risk.
There is also a shift in the type of buildings being constructed. All-inclusive mixed-use developments, resort-like apartment buildings, upscale multifamily complexes, senior communities made of independent units built around a central, multipurpose communal center, are just a few of the options on the table these days.
On the other hand, many boomers want to age in the same place where they have lived for decades. They want to stay in their communities near their friends and families, their parks, their stores. Still, they acknowledge that in 20 years, when they are in their 70s, 80s or even 90s, things might look different. Their two-story house might not work. Driving might get harder. Isolation could become a concern.
Consequently, “aging-in-place” renovations are expected to become an enormous part of the remodeling industry in the next two decades, as developers add features to make outdated buildings and communities work for seniors.
Change is never easy. However, those developers who are able to make a paradigm shift in their thinking, will have a golden opportunity to attract these retiring baby boomers.
Boomers and millennials are more alike than we think
As far as housing preferences is concerned, developers and architects have found that what appeals to millennials actually also appeals to baby boomers. Despite all the differences, these two generations have a few things in common: they both want to live in downsized units, they are both looking for integration with amenities and mixed-use communities where they can live, work and play. So, the product type is not that much different for those extreme ends of the population spectrum, giving developers the opportunity to access two big markets under one project type.
As a result, developers are benefiting from the broad-based appeal of these types of communities, offering a one-two demographic punch that has accelerated absorption of newly constructed units. Technology, too, is resonating with baby boomers, offering developers another way to differentiate new communities from the competition
It all comes down to how we make millennials comfortable with living with seniors, and seniors comfortable living with millennials.
There is no doubt that the senior living industry will continue to adapt to the changing demands of the aging baby boomer population. To remain viable, however, real estate investors, developers and architects alike will be charged with delivering creative solutions to meet this ever-growing and evolving industry.