Baby boomers are changing the senior living paradigm
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Having spent a lifetime demanding and indulging their independence, members of the baby boom generation are showing no signs of letting up as they prepare for their next life-stage. Now in their early 70s, leading-edge boomers are looking ahead to how they want to spend their later years.
One thing most of them don’t want is to wind up like their parents or grandparents in an isolated senior care facility. They are pressing builders and developers to give them more options to remain connected to their communities.
In the latest edition of its biennial white paper on the state of senior living, Perkins Eastman finds that of the many factors affecting senior living now and for the near future, boomers’ desire for more autonomy and self-control will have the greatest impact. It is already prompting the industry, says the report, to broaden the number of options to meet the needs of a greater variety of individuals.
Although it takes different forms and has evolved over the years, the predominant paradigm for senior living for decades has been the stand-alone, age-restricted, one-stop-shop senior living community. It is a model focused on care, congregation and convenience, but tilted more toward the needs of those who are more infirm or dependent.
Today’s healthier and more affluent boomers are looking for living arrangements that will allow them to maintain the autonomous lifestyle to which they are accustomed. They want to be close to and stay in contact with the larger community, and to live on their own.
For many, that means doing whatever is necessary to stay in their current home for as long as they can. For others, it may involve downsizing and moving to a location where they can more easily access activities and services on foot or by public transportation.
According to industry leaders on Senior Housing News’ Architecture and Design Trends for 2019 panel, development trends such as intergenerational living, senior housing as a mixed-use component, and the demand for senior housing in dense urban cores are gaining in popularity.
Instead of creating separate senior villages, the new paradigm is to weave senior living into existing communities. This places seniors in closer proximity to places of interest, such as theaters, museums and other cultural events, as well as to more varied retail options. It also encourages them to engage in more socialization and physical activity.
Anticipating that aging boomers will need more assistance in the future, some developments under construction are combing independent living residences with some assisted living and memory care facilities so that residents can age-in-place in the same community. This helps to alleviate the worry of what will happen if at some point residents find they can no longer function on their own.
In recent years, as the client for senior communities has become younger and healthier, the design trend in senior living has been to move away from a healthcare emphasis to more of a hospitality, resort-like ambience. With the trend toward more independent living, observed one of the Senior Housing News panelists, the aesthetic in the future likely will shift again, toward a more residential model. Independent baby boomers will want to feel that they are living in their own home, whatever form that takes.
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