“Sandwich” Boomers Send Senior Living Community Developers Down New Path

Designing a 50-plus community no longer involves simply building a group of homes with wide hallways and large medicine cabinet. Today, builders say, the “sandwich” generation of baby boomers demands a stimulating and interactive environment inside—and outside—the homes. 

The most important thing in gaining the appeal of the “sandwich generation” of baby boomers in senior living communities is holistic wellness, building experts say.

The “sandwich generation,” as reported by MetLife’s Mature Market Institute (MMI), is the middle generation of baby boomers. They are the generation aged 52-58 in 2010, and in the same year more than half of them considered the state of their health as very good to excellent, MetLife’s MMI reported in a study examining differences among baby boomers.


Designs of age restricted communities now include amenities that promote a physically active and mentally stimulating experience for their active residents. Many new designs feature wellness & fitness spaces, numerous common spaces, and connections to nature.

“It’s about the mind and body getting to the finish line at the same time,” said Deborah Blake, principal of Litchfield Park, Ariz.-based The Ipsum Group, in a June industry discussion hosted by the National Association of Home Builders.

Today’s 50-plus communities are catching on to this trend in design, with many now incorporating “holistic wellness” in their communities, says a recent Perkins Eastman Research Collaborative report.


“Eighteen percent of the award-winning submissions described specific features incorporated in their project to promote holistic wellness, including: On-site fitness/rehab spaces and programs, spaces that support social interactions, programs/spaces for continued learning, views and/or access to nature, including daylight,” said the Perkins Eastman Research Collaborative report.

It is not simply the design of the communities’ interiors that draws consumers to age restricted communities, said Bill Warwick, AIA, Principal, Barton Partners. “The outdoor environment has as much importance as what the homes bring,” Warwick said.

Connecting to nature and often as a result providing holistic wellness is characteristic of 97% of projects that won awards in the recent Design for Aging Review’s DFAR10 competition, according to the “Design for Aging Review-10 Insights and Innovations: The State of Senior Housing” study.

DFAR cites optimal views, indoor-outdoor connections, and outdoor space accessibility as successful ways to connect with nature and provide optimal living conditions.

It is the connection to nature through outdoor environment and spaces for fitness and wellness that combine for a healthy holistic experience.

When creating a community design plan for 50-plus Americans, Blake says it is important to keep their motives, especially that for a good experience, for moving into the community in mind.

“The 50-plus consumer is more likely to be drawn to a great experience than any other consumer…their attitude toward life drives a lot of their decision making,” Blake said.

Written by Erin Hegarty