Resort-style living. Cruise ship atmosphere. Sounds pretty good to me!

Yet, in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.” As the oldest baby boomers begin approaching their mid-retirement years it seems that the senior living industry might want to reconsider the potential impact of this image.

Let me give credit where credit is due. I first began thinking about this after seeing Steve Moran’s May 4 post on his website titled, How Senior Living Perpetuates the Devaluing of Elders Then I came across an article in PBS News Hour called, Why Boomers are Retiring to College.

What struck me most about the PBS article was a quote from Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason, who said, “We’ve built a lot of really beautiful retirement communities in this country, but unfortunately they are in many ways completely separated from the rest of society….A bird in a gilded cage is still a bird in a cage.”

It seems many retirees are looking for much more than purely resort-style amenities. When you really think about, doesn’t that make a ton of sense? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that retirement communities should do away with such wonderful amenities and services. They are great to have. But there has got to be more. Carle goes on to say, “They [seniors] want active, they want intellectually stimulating, and they want intergenerational retirement environments.”

Personally, I have never been on a cruise and I do not have any desire to go on one. The big issue for me is that I do not want to be “trapped” on a ship with a bunch of people I don’t know. I can’t help but wonder if some retirees have this same feeling when they consider a “cruise-ship community.”

A recent study by Life Care Services (LCS) about the future of the consumer revealed much of the same: “The most significant selection factors for the Consumer of the Future will be the definition, depth, and diversity of programming services offered by the CCRC.” Programming will continue to become more and more important to the consumer; not merely the amenities.

The recurring question in the CCRC industry is what will it ultimately require to get the penetration rate well beyond the current low single digits? I am quickly starting to believe that a big part of answering that question begins here.

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