Senior living communities are relatively new, are responding to constantly changing demands and while even this industry is reacting to the current economic downturn, baby boomers are creating and responding to trends in a variety of ways. A recent survey conducted by Mather LifeWays with Life Services of Illinois in late 2008 revealed some interesting findings. This survey is “significant because there are few published studies that examine trends in programs, amenities, and environments among aging services providers,” states Mary Leary, President and CEO, Mather LifeWays.
Independent living is at the top of the list for most seniors and most are serious about technology. That means that senior living communities must offer state-of-the-art systems for computer savvy seniors. Those leaving the workforce today have become accustomed to and very adept at building their careers and a portion of their personal lives around computers. Seniors want services available that will allow them to maintain independence.
New models in Senior Living Communities
The Beacon Hill model, as described in American Association of Retired Persons Magazine is an innovative program that allows residents to stay in their homes and maintain their independence safely and comfortably. Beacon Hill Village in Boston is being embraced by communities with seniors across the nation because of its model as a full-service concierge program dedicated to linking older residents of the neighborhood with anything from a ride to the doctor’s office to house painting services to free lectures and exercise classes. Members must live in the neighborhood and pay an annual fee. The Beacon Hills Village program has sparked grassroots movements across the country.
“The New Retirement Survey” released in 2005 by Merrill Lynch focused on how baby boomers, who are quickly approaching retirement age, will have a noticeable impact on all aspects of senior living, including housing. In fact, because baby boomers will fundamentally reinvent retirement by living longer and remaining engaged and employed beyond age 65, the impact will influence all trends in senior living communities. The survey describes the “turning point”: 76% of boomers intend to keep working and earning after retiring from their current job and even exploring entirely new careers. This desire to continue working is motivated by earnings and by a desire for “continued mental stimulation and challenge which will motivate them to stay in the game.” Naturally, this finding supports the senior living community trend of a desire for further education. Visit the Bernard Osher Foundation to learn about the location of classes and opportunities for lifelong learning offered by this well-regarded foundation.
Trends can also be observed in surveys targeting the operators and owners of these communities. The Mather Lifeways survey describes trends in senior living communities that include wellness and lifelong learning options available as well as environmental considerations, such as green living standards. The survey also found that wireless technology is opening even more opportunities to pursue a wealth of knowledge. Currently, 22% of continuing care retirement communities are now offering Web-based education; however that number is expected to soar to 69% over the next four years, while wellness offerings, including classes and recreation, are projected to grow to 52%, up from 25%. Studies also reveal that 35% of senior living community providers are expected to observe “green” standards in new construction or renovation.
Another study, by Ziegler Capital Markets, queried senior living community owners, explores senior living community trends from a marketing standpoint. The majority of respondents stated that their multi-site organizations have been impacted by the current downturn in the economy. When asked how they intend to react, most said they will offer a variety of discounts on monthly service and entrance fees, which will naturally be attractive to those considering a senior living community. Marketing programs are also focusing more on what their community can offer in response to trends in senior living communities.
Technology, independence, education, health and environmental concerns will undoubtedly keep the newest members of the senior population occupied, challenged and productive for many years.
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