Senior Living for Boomers: Are You Ready For the “Have It Your Way” Residents?
We are moving from the Silent Generation and their “go along to get along” mindset to a generation that has reinvented everything they have touched. They will bring their “have it your way” expectations to senior living, so get ready to shake things up!
Most of our current residents are “traditionalists” from the so-called “Forgotten Generation.” Raised by parents who survived the Great Depression, this generation features conformers, rule followers, and people who are patient and unquestioning of authority. Values include adhering to rules, duty before fun, and compliance. The one thing that they do NOT value is individuality.
It’s no wonder that they conform to a community setting that prescribes their daily routines, allowing operators to create one set of rules that every resident must abide by, such as when to eat meals (and with whom), when to make physician appointments, and what days transportation is available. This model has worked well because it creates operational efficiencies for operators and because the mindset of the generation we serve accepts this structure.
But hang on – the “Me Generation” is at our doorstep! Some of the adjectives associated with Boomers include rebellious, non-conformists, and transformative, not to mention they won’t hesitate to challenge authority. Raised by parents who told them they were “special,” Boomers expect to be valued, needed, and heard. Plus, they want to experience personal fulfillment and growth throughout their life.
Without a doubt, the traditional senior living operational model will have to change to provide a different experience for the next wave of Boomer residents. Here are some things to consider in adapting to this generation:
Offer Greater Choice & Personalization
Are you ready for the sushi & cappuccino generation? They will expect multiple dining options, including farm-to-table, fish-to-fork, organic, Mediterranean diet choices, grab & go, pub, and bistros serving name brand coffee. So how will you convert that one large dining hall into more intimate and creative spaces?
The drive for personalization and choice will extend to every area of operations as residents will advocate for more customized lifestyle options. The biggest challenge for providers is to figure out how to operationalize choice so each resident has a voice in creating their own experience.
Wave Goodbye to Bingo, Ball Toss, & Scenic Rides
One of the most underserved areas in today’s senior living model is activities/resident engagement. There is little training, development, or budget allocated for this department. Today’s “Silent Generation” is satisfied with their status of observer. They watch entertainment programs, sit in circles to exercise, and happily line up for the bus—wherever it takes them.
Boomers want to be in the spotlight, actively participating in living life to the fullest. Full service gyms will replace leftover equipment in the all-purpose room, art studios will eclipse “arts & crafts,” yoga studios will replace “morning stretch”—the entire approach to engagement will have to be totally reimagined.
Remember, Boomers are the “workaholic” generation and many want to continue to work, pursue their passions, and seek personal growth and fulfillment. Instead of lounges and sitting rooms, operators may be creating shared office spaces.
Enrich Your Technology Offerings
Baby Boomers have witnessed rapid development of technology and innovation and have come to appreciate and accept it. Wi-Fi accessibility will be non-negotiable within apartments and common areas with dedicated bands for resident use. Technology designed to compensate for vision, hearing, or physical limitations will offer opportunities for providers to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Smart apartments with voice activated systems to communicate with community services, other residents, and family will create opportunity to attract and retain residents. Passive safety, security, and monitoring systems that are more predictive and that balance privacy with predictive features will be preferred.
Architects should be very busy over the next decade reimagining the resident experience, renovating and updating older communities, and building communities of the future. Need ideas to prepare for Boomers? Senior Living SMART has all the connections!