Co-Living Startup Ollie Draws Aging Baby Boomers

It’s well known that most baby boomers are still several years away from moving into traditional senior housing communities—but the path boomers will take prior to moving in may have a few unexpected twists and turns. One micro-housing platform created with millennials in mind is seeing boomers as a core part of its consumer base, demonstrating that this generation might already be redefining what “senior housing” means.

New York City-based Ollie offers fully furnished “micro-apartments,” with WiFi and cable television included in the rent. Ollie also provides renters with “hotel-style” amenities, such as weekly housekeeping services, including fresh towels, linens and regular replenishment of bath products, like toilet paper, shampoo and hair conditioner.

The startup believed that this offering would be attractive to a younger demographic, but didn’t count on what’s happening with the aging population—trends such as the growing desire for communal living in rental properties, the rejection of typical “senior housing” offerings, and the allure of urban locales.

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“Who was showing up at the building—it blew our thesis wide open,” Christopher Bledsoe, co-founder and CEO of Ollie, told Senior Housing News.

Co-living for boomers

Currently, many U.S. baby boomers are choosing to sell their longtime suburban homes in favor of renting smaller, more urban apartments, according to CNBC. This trend appears to be working in favor of Ollie, which currently offers “all-inclusive co-living” in several U.S. cities, including New York and Pittsburgh.

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Approximately 20% of Ollie renters are 50 years old or older, Bledsoe said. One out of every four email inquiries that Ollie receives is from a boomer. In some Ollie buildings, baby boomers make up one-third of the resident population.

“We see individuals showing up who have already made the decision to urbanize and downsize, and there are others who are looking to sort of try it out,” Bledsoe explained. Members of this latter group have not yet sold their suburban homes, and are instead using their Ollie apartments as a pied-à-terre.

In many cases, boomers are moving into Ollie apartments to be closer to their kids, Bledsoe said. In other instances, the boomers don’t feel old enough to move into senior housing, but still long for a sense of community that’s absent in their suburban life.

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“Maybe they feel younger than their age and they want a more active housing and aging experience,” he concluded.

Adventurous renters

Bledsoe doesn’t live in an Ollie apartment himself—they’re better suited for young people wanting to live with roommates or for single people looking to live alone, he said.

He does happen to know one married, older senior who’s especially interested in Ollie, though.

“My mother-in-law is a perfect example [of a potential Ollie renter],” Bledsoe said. “She just turned 80 last week, and for her 70th birthday we took her skydiving. This past summer we took her whitewater tubing. Right now she’s suburban, but she wants to move into Ollie.”

Though Ollie does offer its renters plenty of events and activities, it doesn’t offer health care services. That shouldn’t dissuade seniors from choosing it over senior housing, Bledsoe suggested.

“Our Pittsburgh location is close to one of the top hospitals in the country,” he said. “Both of our New York City locations are nearby prestigious hospitals. When you’re in the city, you don’t have to offer health care.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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