And They’re About to Change Senior Living
Baby Boomers are on the cusp of retirement. Many are still working at their second or third career and caring for elderly parents. Most are not quite ready for the life of leisure that generations before them embraced in their 60s. That’s because Boomers are different. They don’t want a “retirement home;” they want “active adult communities.” They want not only to live, but to thrive. Local senior communities are listening and are already making changes. We asked what it is this self-reliant and active generation wants.
Independence & Flexibility
Boomers have spent their lives living on their own terms, in their own space, by their own rules, so it’s not surprising they’re unwilling to give up that freedom in retirement. Executive Director of Wellington at Hershey’s Mill, Anda Durso, says Boomers crave independence and a low-maintenance lifestyle. “They want to be able to have a social life and travel,” she says, “but not worry about maintaining their homes while they’re away.”
With more free time and fewer responsibilities, Boomers want communities that provide flexible meal times and services. Whether they’re short-term rehabilitation guests at Wellington’s skilled nursing center or full-time residents at its neighboring 55+ gated community, Hershey’s Mill, “they don’t want to feel institutionalized with set schedules and little choice,” Durso stresses. “They want hospitality, restaurant-quality dining, and alcohol with their meals.” This trend towards customer-focused, resort-style living is catching on quickly.
Location & Customization
Another big selling point is convenient location. In fact, choosing a retirement community can be as much a real estate decision as a lifestyle choice. With a location on bustling Lancaster Ave. in Paoli, Daylesford Crossing, opening this month, is desirable for its proximity to the many Main Line amenities. Residents can continue to live their active lives, just with less effort and stress.
Many communities see this generation preferring larger cottage homes rather than smaller apartments. Freedom Village at Brandywine’s terrace homes are “ideal for Boomers,” according to Marti DiTaranto, Senior Regional Director of Sales & Marketing with Brookdale Senior Living. “Separate from the main clubhouse and apartment building, these spacious condos allow residents to trade maintenance and housekeeping for resort-style living without being forced to downsize.”
Boomers also want the ability to customize their homes. They’re more interested in freedom of expression than cookie-cutter housing. Tel Hai Retirement Community in picturesque Lancaster County has answered this demand with a range of cottage and apartment floor plans, all customizable—from the flooring to the paint!
This diverse group isn’t satisfied with standardized fun either. Straying from the one-size-fits-all model, Tel Hai’s dynamic selection of activities, educational programs, clubs, travel opportunities, performances and classes focuses on the individual. Director of Communications Jolene Weaver remarks, “Each resident decides exactly how to spend each day … they’re as busy or relaxed as they choose.”
Similarly, The Lifestyle 360 program at The Devon Senior Living is right up a Boomer’s alley with its personalized and holistic approach to wellness. It’s designed to meet the five dimensions of total personal wellness: social, intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional, which Director of Community Relations Jules Dewey notes is “different for everyone.”
Whether residents want to learn a new language or try a new hobby like digital photography or dance, the opportunities are there. It definitely isn’t your standard activity program, and Boomers love it!
Since Boomers were the first generation to go to college in droves, they tend to reminisce about the easy life when everything they needed was right on campus. And so, many new 55+ communities modeled after university campuses are popping up, while more established communities add amenities that Boomers demand.
For example, Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community is undergoing a renovation that President and CEO Robert D. Hayward, Jr. says is already piquing the interest of a younger senior crowd. With plans for a 25,000 square-foot gathering space called the Commons, this addition will include an indoor pool, expanded fitness area and exercise rooms plus a café and outdoor patios as nice as the best student center on any college campus. A putting green, bocce and shuffleboard courts are in the works as well.
Likewise, Freedom Village is also expanding and building a new fitness center perfect for active Boomers. With planned activities right on site—like billiards tournaments, yoga, Tai Chi classes, and educational events and seminars—there’s always something engaging to do on this campus.
At many communities, Boomers who don’t want to give up hobbies that require tools and space now don’t have to! Quarryville residents with green thumbs can garden to their hearts’ content in the greenhouse—without storing dirty tools at home.
Community clubs for residents with specialized interests are also becoming popular. Pleasant View Retirement Community in Lancaster County has jumped on board with their Fine Dining Club for retired foodies. Instead of going to Shady Maple yet again (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), members take trips into lively Lancaster City to discover new foods and culinary styles.
Since they worked in a world of computers, smartphones and social media, Boomers are much more tech savvy than previous generations. To catch their attention, senior communities are increasing their tech.
Sales and Marketing Director of Pleasant View Retirement Community Amanda Hall notes having a well designed and information-packed website is key to catching Boomers’ interest. “Boomers are more educated and typically have a parent who’s gone through the same process. Now they’re going online to research, checking out options, and only contacting the communities that suit their specific needs,” she says.
When it comes to choosing a home, Boomers want to keep their gadgets. High speed internet is a must and Wi-Fi connectivity in communal centers is becoming the norm. Many want it not only for their own personal devices, but for their children’s or grandkids’ when they come to visit.
With all these changes, Boomers will be able to live the lives they’ve imagined—and maybe even better. When the time is right, of course.
We asked local senior communities for predictions about how they see the concept of “senior living” changing. Here’s what they said.
“I see there being many more communities popping up that are less geographically isolated, more intergenerational and affordable, and more focused on making residents feel like they’re contributing to their community.”
~ Renna Van Oot,
Executive Director, Friends Home in Kennett
“We’ll continue to see change with flexibility of services, more housing options, a bigger emphasis on health—including different ways of eating and staying active—a shift towards becoming more tech-friendly, and residents wanting to assist in creating their community rather than conforming to it.”
~ Michele Berardi,
Director of Marketing & Community Relations, Kendal Crosslands Communities
“Residents will want more choices and upgrades—like flexible meal plans, more cultural and educational opportunities and expanded fitness programs. They’re going to want to live well, stay active and be involved participants in their communities.”
~ Elaine Kaiser,
Director of Marketing, Dunwoody Village
“Baby Boomers will look for more options in amenities, social venues, value and, most importantly, organizational transparency as they want a comfort level that their investment is protected. They’ll want more input on decisions being made by management and the Board on policy changes and repositioning of the organization.”
~ Bob Bertolette,
CEO, Riddle Village
“The future of senior living will continue to evolve with an increased focus on hospitality. Consumers will have so many more choices. Each provider will need to offer the best in food, fun and comfort. At the end of the day, however, quality care should be the primary focus because without it, the amenities mean nothing.”
~ Leslie Wild,
Community Relations Director,
Exton Senior Living