I was calling the main phone number of a CCRC recently, and while I was on hold, the recorded message that was running told me about several great things the community offers. But I was particularly struck by one of the things the recording mentioned: The community boasted of having board games.
In order to stay financially solvent in the decades-to-come, the CCRC industry as a whole must maintain high occupancy levels, and to do this, they must successfully attract the next generation of retirees. But given all of the important services and appealing amenities offered by CCRCs, I’m not sure that having board games is the top selling point to mention in your recorded message to a captive audience who has called your community on the phone.
A community with a plan
A CCRC that is poised to thrive in the long-term should have an up-to-date marketing and strategic plan in place. And to create such a document, the CCRC provider must have a deep understanding of the size, needs, and preferences of their target demographic. This strategic plan also must specify how the community will continue to position itself within the industry in the coming years. On the flip side, however, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that overly optimistic marketing projections are one of the main reasons why startup CCRCs or expansion projects fail.
Attracting the next generation of CCRC residents
Attitudes about aging are rapidly evolving as the Baby Boomers enter their golden years. As a result, these soon-to-be retirees likely will not be attracted to senior living settings that feel institutional or restrictive…like an “old folks’ home.”
Varsity, a marketing and research agency based in Pennsylvania, which focuses on the “mature market,” penned a 2012 article titled, “Generation Engaged: New Study Spotlights The Modern Retiree.” The piece shares Varsity’s findings from market research conducted on a population of seniors in 2007 and then again in 2012 on a different group of seniors. The two studies used a combination of total immersion by the researcher within a CCRC, focus groups, interviews, and supervised “shop-alongs” at stores and restaurants.
The study revealed substantial differences between the seniors in the two study groups. Varsity’s director of client services, John Bassounas, observed, “What we’re seeing is an intelligent, informed, highly engaged group that is much more physically and intellectually active than its counterpart just five years ago, and much more in control.”
Looking to the future of senior living
Based at Varsity’s study findings and drawing upon my own observations, research, and discussions, here are just a few of the areas where I believe the senior living industry will see the biggest changes in the years ahead as they strive to appeal to these newer retirees:
Physical design: Communities of the future will become less “cookie-cutter” in their layout. Yes, you’ll still see some large campuses being built, but smaller “boutique-style” communities, which offer a homier feel while still providing traditional CCRC services, will gain popularity. Increased outdoor spaces like trails, mini-parks, and even adult playgrounds encourage exercise and fresh air. Developers also will look to integrate more features that facilitate extended independence and aging in place.
Technology: Today’s seniors are embracing new technologies like smartphones, tablets, and computers, and as a result, they do more online research prior to a move or purchase decision than previous generations of retirees. So, a strong online presence is increasingly important for selling your community to prospects. Communities also must meet this growing demand by offering residents Wi-Fi access…this is a non-negotiable. Online activities like social media and Facetime stimulate brain activity and foster inclusion and socialization (especially among residents who have mobility issues). Further, new assistive technologies are making it easier and safer for seniors to live on their own for longer.
Dining options: Retirement communities will offer more dining options and flexibility in the years to come as today’s seniors find less appeal in the formal dining room found in many traditional CCRCs. Look for more flexible dining times and options like bistros or cafes, which offer lighter fare in a more casual setting. Dietary trends like vegetarian, gluten-free, and locally sourced items are also gaining popularity.
Healthcare: There is a growing acceptance of person-centered, alternative, and holistic treatments among this generation of retirees. To appeal to these prospective residents, communities will increasingly emphasize an empowering, active lifestyle with a variety of wellness activities. With the uncertain future of our overall healthcare system and government-run programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, it is difficult to predict the direction of care in CCRCs, but cost-containment and effectively meeting demand will surely be key considerations.
>> In the latest edition of my book, “What’s the Deal with Retirement Communities,” due out this spring, you’ll learn more about how an emphasis on topics like affordability, environmental sustainability, and diverse programming will ensure the CCRC industry continues to thrive in the future by appealing to retirees-to-be. The book will be available on Amazon.com in both paperback and e-book; look for a future post announcing the release date!
Within retirement communities, housing and lifestyle are tightly intertwined, so the most successful senior living facilities will be those that don’t simply accommodate, but rather embrace, prospects’ evolving preferences in new and innovative ways. To learn more about what specific communities are doing to attract the next generation of older adults, check out our free online community search tool where you’ll find information on unique services and amenities, as well as contract options and more.