Demand for continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) is poised to grow in the next two decades among boomers, according to a recent study conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-based marketing communications agency Varsity, and the retirement landscape could be in for an overhaul.
“The Boomer generation, a group that has grown up demanding things be done on their terms, has redefined almost every area of society. Boomers are also redefining aging and the concept of ‘retirement,'” says Varsity.
The upcoming generation of retirees is more active and healthy than ever before, but faces a very uncertain future with prominent concerns about Social Security, pension plans, and home values.
Varsity conducted the study in early 2012 and focused on five specific topic areas within retirement communities: living spaces, healthcare and common amenities, transportation, dining, and programs and activities. The agency surveyed adults between the ages of 60 to 75 who either haven’t yet made a commitment to, are ambivalent about, or have no intention of moving into a retirement community setting.
Key findings include many older adults negatively viewing extravagance in living spaces—perhaps negating the hospitality-style senior living some architects are touting.
The main reason for this is the issue of affordability. “While [the surveyed adults] recognized that these products are often needed to attract a younger and wealthier crowd, they were skeptical about who ends up footing the bill for them, and how they will be sustained in the future,” Varsity finds.
Another top concern was entrance fees, as study participants indicated an aversion to high fees due in part to declining home values.
“Green” labels were met with skepticism as to their true impact on the world, and communities using green building materials and options weren’t deemed important, according to the study, unless there was a “perceived cost-saving or health-related benefit.”
Downsizing doesn’t appear to be viewed favorably by many participants, as Varsity found consensus among participants that actual living spaces were too small, from bedrooms not being able to accommodate the largest-sized beds, to kitchens not having enough counter or storage space.
Along the same lines, Varsity found a strong desire for storage, with many people favoring closet space, garages, and other storage options in independent living spaces but feeling that apartment units didn’t have enough available closets and linen storage.
Technology was also touted as playing a major role across all types of housing units, with many wanting adequate computer hookups, enough outlets, data ports, and designated workspaces for computers, and WiFi as a standard amenity.
Healthcare, Common Amenities, & Transportation
Many cited the benefit of available healthcare as a primary reason for choosing a community, echoing the Boston College Center for Retirement Research’s findings that residents are willing to move further to go to a community that offers a continuum of care.
“Boomers have seen the effects of memory loss on their parents and grandparents, and expect a CCRC to offer memory support as a standard feature,” Varsity notes.
Study participants said “extra” amenities such as swimming pools and indoor tennis courts were “nice” but indicated that a YMCA membership/a la carte access would be sufficient.
“Boomers expect flexible transportation routes and schedules that will al low them to get places easily,” Varsity’s research showed, with other findings including expectations for consistent, scheduled transportation to shopping areas and other key locations.
Dining & Programs and Activities
Most study subjects indicated they’d enjoy occasional meals in a community dining space in addition to being able to cook in their own units, although many frowned on time and dress restrictions. Varsity found that “boomers like the idea of a menu developed a week in advance, want to see more meal variety, and also expressed a strong interest in options that include vegetarian.”
As for programs and activities, many are willing to go off-site, realizing that their “varied interests cannot all be catered to under one roof.”
Gardening and on-site woodworking shops are listed as hobbies some participants would like access to, along with continuing education programs like lectures, or active group opportunities like fishing, hunting, tennis, and swimming.
Faith was not found to be a determining factor in what community a person might choose compared to previous generations, with many indicating they’d continue to go to their prior house of worship.
Boomer Impact on Retirement Living
Boomers won’t accept the same types of senior housing their parents and grandparents did, and some providers might find difficulty in caring for and housing the boomer generation alongside the “Silent Generation,” according to Varsity, in terms of desired programs/activities and living preferences.
In boomers’ minds, they’re the customer, and they want to be in control of their consumer decisions. “Communication is key; residents must have a voice in any and all decisions,” Varsity concludes.
Click here to request a copy of “Boomers to Challenge the Future of Traditional CCRCs.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace