A new generation of seniors is approaching the age of retirement. The Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are now between 52 and 70 years of age and have a very different view of the world and of aging than the Silent Generation (those born from 1925 to 1945), who now make up the majority of residents in senior living communities. The Boomer generation is more educated, wealthy, racially and ethnically diverse, and individualistic. Boomers also vowed they would never grow old.
So how does the future senior facility accommodate their needs and desires? There are several factors that will affect when, where, and how the Boomers will live in their senior years.
Advances in technology have already begun to impact healthcare models, with smart phone apps and the promise of personal care robots that can read vital signs and monitor medications. These e-connections would appear to make it easier for aging individuals to continue to live at home alone, but is this best? Social isolation can lead to depression and poor health habits and has even been associated with the risk of developing dementia of all types, including Alzheimer’s disease. Community housing can offer informal social connections with peers as well as amenities for group health and fitness. While some community housing models include accessible single-family homes in close proximity, one is left wondering: Do these homes offer the ease of socialization needed for a viable social connection? Costs are a factor in housing choice, as well, and for those seniors needing an affordable option, inter-generational housing may be the answer — allowing aging individuals to live with the extended family.
No More Nursing Homes
Analysts suggest that the nursing home model will gradually give way to small group care, which is more efficient and less institutional. Residential care homes offer an appropriate setting for those with memory loss and other dementia symptoms in a boarding house environment of six or fewer residents. These small communities can also provide special interest housing options with widely varied appeal —from LGBT, to culture-specific, to pet-friendly groups — which fits well with the individualistic ideals of today’s Boomers. Assisted living facilities like the “Green House” model provide care to a group of 10 to 12, with the ratio of healthcare providers to residents allowing for personal relationships to grow, a benefit to both.
In the years ahead, as healthcare puts a premium on fitness and wellness, Boomers will be looking to residential communities to provide healthy food options, activity options, and health education classes. Seniors will want to stay mentally fit as well, and will look for access to higher education facilities and classes within the community. “Healthy” buildings will also be required to meet the green concerns and sustainability awareness of this generation.
The Lure of Urban Living
Urban locations for senior communities may become more desirable, thanks to their easy access to museums, restaurants, and other cultural and commercial activities. The new retirement home will look more like a hotel, located in a destination of interest and having a hospitality feel in its interior, with amenities such as restaurant, bar, and fitness facilities in easy reach. Individuals may live in their unit with access to home healthcare if needed while also having the chance to socialize at a yoga class. Choices abound … a major requirement for Boomers and one that could become the biggest challenge for designers of senior communities of the future.
Determining how to prioritize the amenities and services desired by senior Boomers requires knowledge of what tops their wish list for a retirement community. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us for a more in-depth conversation.