Baby Boomers are Going to Turn Assisted Living Model “On its Head”

It began in 2011, and it’s going to keep happening until 2030: 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 each day, and those in the senior housing industry don’t think the “Greatest Generation” is going to enter quietly into accommodations that don’t meet their standards and expectations.

The Boomer generation has generally gone through life demanding that things be done their way—not the other way around—and this attitude will likely play a large role in the assisted living landscape in the coming years, according to senior living experts.

Today’s seniors aren’t really looking to downsize, and when they come to a senior community they want to bring their “stuff” with them and keep doing the activities they’re used to doing, says Manny Gonzalez, an architect with design firm KTGY Group, Inc., based in California.

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“What we’re seeing in a lot of cases is that our clients are trying to bring designs into this next generation of architecture and planning where we don’t want our communities and our floor plans to look like the house Mom and Dad moved into, and certainly not the one we put Grandma into 25 years ago,” he says.

The baby boomer generation “has turned everything on its head that it has touched since the 1960s,” says Tom Grape, chairman and CEO of Benchmark Senior Living, and it “won’t be any different” for senior housing.

Many 50+ communities are now sporting a more “contemporary” design and feature modern furnishings and an extensive use of technology, Gonzalez told SHN.

“If you don’t have a place to have Wii fitness in your community, you’re missing the boat,” he says. “You don’t even need to have the personal trainer, you just turn on the game. Putting flexibility into communities and the amenities and allowing people to update things quickly is good.”

The architect also said that his firm is seeing a lot of clients who want to include activities residents used to have to leave behind, and he said they’re putting workshops and gardens into some of their communities.

More pets are being allowed in, too, with pet-washing and dog parks cropping up in rental communities.

Urban locations are becoming increasingly sought after, where amenities can be found alongside the site, as opposed to being located within the community itself.

“They’re used to having the services they want, when they want them… The voice of the customer has never been more powerful than it is today, and it will only grow,” Grape says. “In the future, boomers will want more services. [They’re] going to want urban settings, mixed-use settings, so they can have a full array of choices.”

“People are being a little more particular about the sites they select, so that there are those sorts of opportunities for their residents,” Gonzales agrees.

While golf still important to some, other communities are being shaped around a more active lifestyle, with hiking trails or water sports, he adds. And despite 71% of middle-class baby boomers worrying they’ll outlive their money in retirement, according to a report from Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement, the “resort style of design” is gaining steam.

“The best developments tend to be contemporary [in style],” Gonzalez says. “There are places that look like you went to Cancun or Palm Springs or some really great recreation area… they’re being done well.”

As an architect, he says it’s exciting to try to anticipate trends and design with them in mind. Technology, in particular, is sure to continue to play a large role, and Gonzalez says it will be interesting to see how new technology will eventually work its way into the senior markets.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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