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Guest Thinkers

What (Some) Baby Boomers Want in a Retirement Community

According to the American Association of Retirement Communities, nearly 15,000 baby boomers retire every day – and visit and selecta community to live – an extraordinary number by any estimate. In a previousarticle, Should I Stay or Should I Go, factors that go into the decision toage-in-place or move to a ‘retirement community,’ were discussed. Each of theseelements should be considered by real estate developers, communities andregions seeking to position themselves to attract baby boomer investment.

A recent survey, conducted by Ideal Living Magazine,reveals some additional insight on a highly select group of baby boomerslooking to retire to sunnier southern climes. The survey reports the results of~1000 Ideal Living Magazine readers responding to 35 questions about what theyare looking for in retirement housing. The respondents were between the ages of 45 and65.

This is a very biased survey sample. Readers of IdealLiving Magazine are already interested in moving (91.5% revealed that theywere interested in buying real estate) and are more likely to have higherincomes than the average baby boomer. Despite this bias, findings provide afew data points and some potential insights on innovations in retirement housing and community design: 

  • Going Green – 63.2% said they were interested inlearning more about “green” products. This may provide new energy tothe ‘green movement.’ Reaching beyond appeals of basic cost savings to possiblytouching core environmental values of boomers decades ago. Older green valuesmay influence appliance choices, home construction, to overall community values –for example, can I walk rather than use my car, is there transit, etc.?
  • Health Access – as suggested in Should I Stay or Should I Go, 94% said that access to medical services is critical. Thisexplains, in part, why college towns with a medical school, are growing retirementdestinations. However, creative exploitation of technology and global serviceproviders by real estate developers and community planners may provide astrategic advantage in attracting boomers feeling the aches and pains of middle age. Advances in telemedicine (e.g., Cisco Telepresence) may make it possible for manycommunities to access to ‘branded’ providers, e.g., Cleveland Clinic,Partners (Massachusetts General Hospital, etc.), Mayo Clinic, through thedevelopment telemedicine services for consultation, therapy, etc.
  • Being There – another 86.3% of respondents said theywould like to walk to recreational activities. Community planners working forprivate developers and local governments may see this as another reason to bemore attentive to designing communities that are ‘livable communities’ –providing intensity and density to access and enjoy recreation, shopping, andsimple everyday living.
  • Working in Retirement – nearly half (46%) of the 45to 65 year olds said they plan to work in retirement. This may includevolunteering as well as work for pay. However, it does suggest that some partof choosing a retirement living destination will be based upon a familiarfactor from youth – “what is the job market for me?” Communities and regionsseeking to attract next generation retirees may also need to carefully identifyand seek those industries that may find older workers attractive hires, e.g.,higher-end service businesses that include knowledge workers, need for qualitycustomer service relations etc. 
  • These findings provide a limited view into whata select group of baby boomers may want in a retirement destination. Carefullyconsidered, these desires may be useful in stimulating innovations inpublic and private community design, services development and quality of lifefor older adults of every strata.


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