Independent Living Communities Meet Growing Needs of Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are changing what the 55+ housing industry looks like to accommodate their specific needs, especially as they relate to socialization and active interests. Trends include “Golden Girls”-esque living arrangements and multigenerational roommates, which provide seniors outlets for companionship as well as opportunities to live affordably in areas with ample activities often within walking distance. 55+ housing professionals have adapted to meet these changing needs through independent living communities — a hybrid between traditional 55+ active-adult housing and assisted-care communities — for boomers looking for a sense of community along with key amenities they will need in the future. Prospective buyers have two amenity-rich options: non-licensed communities, which offer limited services and slightly above-market rental rates, and licensed communities, which offers services commonly found only in assisted living. (The rents for the latter are substantially higher than a typical senior apartment, but the programs and services are well worth the expense.) Rather than designing communities with senior living staples such as country stores and barber or beauty shops, today’s independent living communities are soliciting feedback from their residents to ensure that their spaces and activities meet their interests. Professionals note trends such as:
  • Modern community spaces, such as coffee shops and bistros, or even community radio stations
  • Integrated health options to promote socialization and health care, including opportunities to subscribe to outside services such as therapy and in-home, short-term health care providers
  • Flexible dining experiences, from causal to formal, to accommodate everyone from couples enjoying a night out to friends gathering for dinner
  • Increased technology to promote security, health, wellness and quality of life, such as in-home hubs like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home
  • Incorporation of the surrounding community into design elements, including local artwork and photography in gathering spaces
Even the needs for individual living space are changing, as prospective buyers prefer larger unit sizes comparable to market-rate apartments. To appeal to these buyers, independent living communities are transforming the sales experience from one of brochures and floor plans to one of goals and needs through the use of lifestyle consultants. These consultants focus on the motivations and personalities of the buyer to better understand what their desires are, and promote how the community can meet both their concrete and intangible needs. After all, baby boomers know what they want — it’s up to the professionals to research and listen to help them plan for their next opportunity. This post was adapted from an article in the Winter 2019 issue of 55+ Housing Online Magazine. Douglas Ahlstrom is currently the Senior Programmer, Planner and Designer with Irwin Partners Architects in Costa Mesa, Calif. He is involved with NAHB 55+ Housing Council as well as LeadingAge and CALA. Learn more about the critical elements lifestyle professionals bring to a community’s success at the International Builders' Show: Lifestyle Directors: Your Community’s Most Powerful Marketing Tool.

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