For many industries, attracting the massive baby boomer market will hold the key to success in the coming decade. The oldest of the boomers have reached their early 70s, and modern medicine — along with a new emphasis on healthy lifestyles — is helping them live longer and better than ever.
As boomers begin to consider their retirement options, they are expected to significantly and permanently change the field of senior housing. What are some of the changes boomers are bringing, and what steps can senior living organizations take to adapt and take advantage of the lucrative boomer market?
Increasing Demands and Expectations
In the past, senior living organizations have relied on lower-wage, relatively unskilled workers — especially in roles such as nursing assistants, housekeepers, dining staff and drivers.
As the baby boomers begin to enter senior living, they are demanding better services and a higher level of quality. As a result, organizations must step up their recruiting to bring in talented, qualified staff members. To lead those workers in providing continual improvement, organizations also need visionary, agile leaders.
Luxury Amenities, Personalized Experiences
The opportunity to downsize — and simplify — represents a major reason people choose to move to senior living communities. However, research has found that many baby boomers crave elegance and luxury in their lives, with options like fully appointed fitness centers, coffee shops, juice bars, pools and spas, and multiple dining venues.
In contrast to previous generations, the boomers as a group tend to make decisions based on their personal preferences and desires — as opposed to their immediate needs. Members of this generation seek communities they feel are a good fit for them, and they choose environments that provide them with the greatest choice and flexibility.
Changing the Language
Boomers as a group haven’t embraced the word “senior” — or the concept. Communities have begun to respond by changing the language they use, as well as their approach to living well in retirement.
Rather than viewing retirement as an end, boomers tend to see it as the beginning of the next phase of their lives, a time when they can free themselves from previous burdens and pursue their passions. And speaking of retirement, boomers prefer a different term: transition.
Embracing Technology — Wisely
Boomers are known for their embrace of technology in general, with wide use of smartphones, tablets, wearables and other digital products that provide convenient services and information. WiFi has become a must these days for communities, but boomers also want to know that networks provide adequate security to protect their privacy.
As communities move toward greater automation in providing long-term care, leaders should tread carefully. Human care partners will continue to offer vital social interaction and empathy.
Sustainability and Healthy Cuisine
Environmental sustainability represents a significant concern for many boomers, and this age group will choose communities that have committed to sustainable practices. By embracing initiatives such as composting, gardening, recycling and beekeeping, communities are taking the lead in attracting boomers.
Farm-to-table dining also appeals to many boomers, and communities across the country have begun to incorporate local, fresh and in-season produce in their dining programs.
Addressing the Middle Market
After enduring years of increasing health care costs, a poor economy and a low savings rate, many baby boomers do not have the resources to afford luxury accommodations in retirement. Just over 40 percent of boomers say they’re satisfied with their current financial status.
To attract the huge boomer demographic, communities may need to shift the focus from the high end to the middle market — while understanding that lofty expectations for services, amenities and choices remain.
The isolated retirement communities of yesteryear are giving way to mixed-use developments in which multiple generations live, work and play in close proximity. Communities that include housing for all ages — along with schools, places of worship, medical offices, businesses, retail and restaurants — are becoming the preferred mode for baby boomers to transition to retirement.
Unprecedented Changes Coming
As the baby boomers reach retirement age en masse, communities have begun adapting to attract this huge age group. Remaining successful and profitable in this rapidly changing business climate will require significant capital — along with innovation, an ability to keep up with emerging trends, and a willingness to engage with boomers on a personal level.