Baby Boomers have become experts at identifying and demanding what we want. At 76 million strong, Baby Boomers are not willing to settle for the cookie-cutter continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) often found in generations past. And, with more than a trillion dollars in buying power, we have the financial muscle to pay for it.
Although The Baby Boomer Generation is not yet of age for most CCRCs, we're seeing glimpses of the behaviors and attitudes of our generation in the "Silent Generation," the younger component of the generation we're now serving.
This peek into the future through our experience with our transitioning generation can help prepare us for the future.
Baby Boomers are also extremely consumer savvy. Having seen our own parents navigate the retirement maze, we know what communities generally have to offer and how to compare them. And, because most of us are paying for our retirement ourselves, budgeting for retirement, estate planning and long-term care insurance are all-important issues.
One of the traditional obstacles in marketing retirement housing to our parents was to move out of their homes in which they've lived for their entire adult lives. With the Boomers, that often won't be the case. Many of us have moved several times in our lives and are less sentimental about our homes than our parents and grandparents. Generally speaking, we expect more from retirement than our parents did.
So why is there less sentimentality? As more women work outside the home, domestic responsibilities are less a part of "who we are." We are much more likely to focus our energies on intellectual, spiritual or physical pursuits, and to hire someone for the "must do's." With this orientation toward lifestyle, Baby Boomers realize the benefits of retirement living and accept the concept more readily than our parents did.
The most radical departure from the past will be in community design and housing. While stacked apartments remain more economically rewarding from the builder's perspective, many upscale Boomers want a more spacious and separate living atmosphere.
The "one big building" concept is likely to give way to a more campus-oriented environment, with activity-specific buildings, similar to a small village. As more of us choose to move into CCRCs younger and healthier, we are demanding many of the same features found in our previous homes.
CCRC campuses should plan to add or include small, residential living communities that feature spacious town homes, some with two stories. They should be easily customizable and feature high ceilings, large bay windows, basements, fireplaces, second-story decks) French doors and many other design options.
The Baby Boomer Generation has redefined the norms of society at every stage of our lives, and our retirement will be no exception. The most successful communities will provide an environment and lifestyle that meet the needs of our enormous and vital segment of our population.
Baby Boomers will be heard!
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