This is quote from a retiree that was interviewed for a December Wall Street Journal article titled, “Senior Year Transfer: Retiring in a College Town.” Aside from thinking about the fact that the local government and Chamber of Commerce in Palm Springs probably cringed when reading this, the quote caught my attention because it so succinctly describes what appears to be a new line of thinking among retirees today, which is that they are seeking someplace where they can go to “live” instead of to die. No one wants to move to a place where they feel like they are just passing time until they die. This is particularly true for a new generation of retirees who are redefining the very concept of retirement. Yet, when it comes to retirement communities, the perception among the public is often just that; a place to pass time until the end.
But many current residents of retirement communities do not think this way. In his Newsweek Article, “Aging Insights: Residents Share What It's Like to Live in a Retirement Community,” Philip Moeller summarizes a series of interviews he conducted with several residents of a continuing care retirement community in Maryland to gather their perspectives about life in a CCRC. Moeller states, “No one thought of where they now live as a retirement home. With many people still active in their 80s and 90s, the residents stressed that a retirement community is a place to live, not a place to get ready to die.”
The retirement community industry is facing a both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is overcoming the long held assumption among many in the public that retirement communities are a place to go to die. The opportunity is a projected 40% growth rate of age 65+ households in the U.S. over the next ten years. How will retirement living providers bridge the gap; convincing more and younger retirees to come “live” in their communities? How will they help more retirees see the benefits that many current residents already understand? What types of programs will be developed to keep residents engaged in the broader community? What will they do to help residents participate in lifelong learning and other programs offered through local universities? What about access to local culture and entertainment? No matter how great a retirement community may be tomorrow's retirees will not want to be cut off from the world. The value proposition will most likely lie in the number of opportunities for engagement outside of the community and, of course, access to top-notch healthcare.
I am excited to see how the most innovative communities will respond in the coming years.
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