The Changing Face of the Retirement Home Industryby Kurt Schlabach
A large and formidable segment of the population is slowly entering the retirement home marketplace. The demographic comprising of at least 77 million strong, in America alone, are baby boomers. Baby boomers are people born between the years of 1946 and 1964.
This segment of the population has fared well with advancements in medicine and technology providing their age group with a much longer life expectancy than ever before. The new wave of retirees began in 2006 and will continue to hit the beaches until 2024. The Retirement Home and Independent Living industry have been preparing for their arrival for some time now and are determined to meet the new needs of this demographic with a variety of innovative ideas and progressive housing solutions.
If recent trends are any indication, baby boomers are seeking new ways to spend their retirement dollars. Not content to be simply corralled into traditional senior housing; boomers are looking for active vibrant living communities that will reflect their eclectic lifestyles.
The current seniors/retirement market
The American seniors/retirement housing market as it stands now can be broken into five classifications, each of them bound by two common characteristics. They are all residential settings and available only to people with the minimum age requirement of 55 years of age. The seniors/retirement housing market is divided into five distinct categories:
- senior's apartments
- independent living housing
- assisted living housing
- nursing care
- Continuing care retirement communities.
Boomers think differently about retirement than previous generations
Although large segments of the baby boomer populations are still living in their own homes there is a growing trend that will redefine where they will move when retirement beckons and their needs change. Boomer retirees have some definite ideas on how they want to live the next phase of their lives. Their thinking is quite different from how their parents perceived retirement. When choice or need calls these retirees will either choose to or simply have to enter the senior's housing market; but they will certainly want to retain as much independence as possible, while doing so.
The changing face of retirement living
Given the fiercely independent and strong minded nature of today's seniors the old traditional models of senior's housing is expected to change. The drab brick and mortar low rise complexes that used to house seniors are turning over a new leaf. Bingo every Thursday evening will no longer be the accepted norm.
Current trends in housing suggest a much more vibrant edge to retirement living. A blending of services has occurred. Seniors are living in housing which is designed to promote independent living but with the added bonus of having services that will address assisted living when and if needed.
Different strokes for different folks
Aside from the need for independent living some baby boomers are looking for comfort and quality in an amenity rich environment. For those baby boomers impacted by the investment fiasco of 2008 the emphasis is on housing which provides maximum return for a limited dollar. Depending on their level of income new retirees have begun to explore a variety of housing solutions in which to enjoy their retirement.
A community built and geared for retirement living is not a new and revolutionary idea. The American landscape is dotted extensively with housing projects that were built for seniors. Developers are continuing to build these enclaves but the focus has changed.
Fifty+ seniors are being offered a variety of housing. Whether it is a small cluster of bungalows with one level living or small condominiums, the focus continues to be on an independent lifestyle with a wide list of available services offered as part of the package or, at an extra cost. A more deliberate effort is being made to offer new retirees greener housing with a smaller environmental footprint.
Art, music and lifestyle choices are integrated into these communities to reflect the varied tastes of the new senior consumer. There is nothing pale and dull about seniors living in 2013. Retirement living isn't about the end stage of anything. It's about new beginnings and growth. Baby boomers and the new retirees want nothing less than the best.
The plus side of all the new amenities being built into the senior housing model is that when the joints do eventually start to ache, there will be assisted living available. Whether its twenty–four hour nursing consultation or someone to help with small jobs around the house, the intention continues to be independence.
Some baby boomers have chosen to invest their monies in "intentional communities" or Co–Housing. Co–Housing is a community of privately owned homes on shared property with shared facilities. The community itself is designed, owned and run by the residents. Communities may differ from place to place, based on the actual intention of the resident designers, but are typically bound by a philosophy of interaction among neighbors.
When neighborliness is encouraged social and practical benefits result. While homes are privately owned there are facilities in the communities that are shared by residents. Facilities that house publicly used kitchens, dining rooms and recreational areas provide outlets for residents to meet and socialize with others in the community on a weekly basis.
While some co–housing is restricted to the senior demographic, many others are made up of working couples, families as well as seniors. Due to the neighborhood feel that is fostered in these communities this form of housing can appeal to a great many seniors. Seniors can continue to live independently in their own homes but still enjoy the comfort of being a part of a closely knit community.
For some retirees, economic pressures have forced them abroad in search of a more manageable cost of living. In some cases, seniors have found adequate and reasonably priced housing in a warmer climate. As attractive as it might be now, the need for family contact or ill health will eventually bring them back. When it does, the home retirement industry will be ready.
Boomers are reshaping the face of retirement
Existing trends fired by the spending dollars of baby boomers have reshaped the face of retirement. Rather than dreading old age the new retiree is growing old, with a new vigor.