The New Retirement Community

By Lori Ross | February 8th, 2016

How will retirement communities change for boomers?

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Many of us have peeked into retirement communities of different sorts while we researched solutions for our parents. Taking the tours, we’ve likely tested ideas for our own futures and have thoughts about where we want to live as we age further.

And what is the future?

Surveys typically indicate that most boomers want to remain in their own homes, spending money to renovate them, or move into new ones that will work well for the long run. It’s anticipated that our generation will be able to live independently longer than our parents, largely due to technology and to companies looking to provide new services to accommodate the needs of our huge generation. As boomers, we’re more tech-savvy than our parents, having learned to use computers, smart phones and tablets reasonably well. In Richmond and elsewhere, new services from Amazon already offer same-day delivery affordably – helping to eliminate the problem of grocery shopping our moms may have had as non-drivers.


To compete with the option of aging at home and in recognition of the cultural differences between boomers and their elders, professionals in the senior living communities industry are very aware of the need to appeal to the coming generation of boomers. They are ramping up with seminars and training, as well as psychological, cultural and physical changes that show their offerings will no longer be your mother’s retirement home.

How will retirement communities change for boomers?

Here are five ways:

1. The senior living industry will re-brand itself as a desirable place to live, rather than a place to die.

Boomers are researchers, and many plan what they want for themselves proactively. Marti Miller, director of marketing at the Hermitage at Cedarfield, says that, “to boomers, wellness and health is ‘It’.” She laughs about her own future, “When people ask me when I’m going to retire, I tell them I’m going to change my life plan … no retirement for me,” she says.

For boomers whose life plan includes wellness and health, The Hermitage at Cedarfield will begin expansions and construction that include a new fitness/wellness center with lap swimming, aquatic exercise, spa, aerobic studio, fitness and weight room, and two art studios. The center will be linked to residences via two enclosed heated/air-conditioned connectors.

2. Providing satisfying experiences will be a core component of community living.

These experiences define what could be the most compelling reason to plan to live in a community rather than an individual home. One trend nationally involves continued learning opportunities, sometimes with universities. Nan Pascal, community relations coordinator at St. Mary’s Woods Retirement Community, gives examples of popular offerings. “We have immersion months,” she says. “One recent immersion experience was all about ‘Latin Culture.’ The Latin Ballet performed, an Ecuadorian bird expert presented, and Spanish language classes were taught. We also have other classes such as poetry and history, taught by professional teachers that we pay, not volunteers. We offer two types of yoga and tai chi. … Lots of choices.”

3. There is a cultural change toward “person-centered care.”

Residents will have the freedom to live the way they would in their own home rather than how they would in a hospital-like setting. Miller explains Hermitage at Cedarfield’s shift toward person-centered care through an example: If, at home, breakfast is preferred at 9:30 a.m., with a newspaper, that’s how it will be in the community – rather than the resident’s being told breakfast will be at 7:30 in the dining room.

4. Boomers want the look of an attractive home.

Boomers want to enjoy the design and decor similar to their home preferences. Pascal says, “Beyond the care or amenities, people look at other things. We’ve moved away from the old pink and green and the institutional. Now the colors are a mix of softer and vibrant … more contemporary. Kitchens are getting stainless steel appliances and granite counters.”

5. Costs will need to be well-managed.

Across the range of independent living, assisted living, memory care or continuing-care retirement communities, professionals know that cost will be an important consideration. As the communities evolve, they will need to innovate with efficiency. Technology won’t remain helpful only for those who choose to remain in an individual home.

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