10 Retirement Pitches Baby Boomers Don’t Want to Hear

Category: Baby Boomer Retirement Issues

November 29, 2011 — Marketers have been salivating about baby boomers since the time we started overwhelming kindergartens in 1951. Developers are still excited about our huge numbers (76 million); today they are are eager to supply us with real estate for our “golden years”. Yet, just as when we were in our teens a lot of companies couldn’t connect with us, many of the people trying to market to us today are hopelessly young, and they don’t always get what makes us tick either.

One constant is that baby boomers will never think of themselves as old. Our bodies might not look much like what they did when we got naked at Woodstock, but, attitudinally, we still tend to place ourselves in our late teens or 20’s. Keeping that in mind, here are the top things that baby boomers don’t want to hear as they think about retirement. Some are contradictory, but heh, who ever said we were predictable. See if you agree, and use the Comments section to give us your ideas about approaches that might appeal to you as a baby boomer.

1. You’ll love our Premier Senior or Retirement Community. It’s easy to see why 30 something marketers pitch their communities to “seniors” – to them anybody over 40 is pretty old. Although just about every new development has learned to avoid these charged names in their advertising, it is surprising how many communities still age themselves by using these terms. No self-respecting baby boomer thinks of himself as a senior, or could see herself in a “retirement community” – those are for old people! Thank goodness the terms “retirement home” and “old folks home” seem to have disappeared, replaced by the more acceptable ““Assisted Living”” or “Nursing Homes”.

The same goes for the no-no of speaking of “golden years”. First, it just sounds so old. And second, it’s ironic: so many baby boomers are financially insecure about retirement that their “gold” has been tarnished.

2. You will love all our activities. Amenities are the surest indicator of when a community was built, and how old the population is. When a website or brochure talks about shuffleboard, bingo, and card games – look out. Golf is in the middle and declining in popularity. Many people are crazy about it, some people can’t stand it, and still other folks are leary because maintaining the courses is expensive. Aerobics classes, pickle ball, and college classes are a lot more appealing to the boomer generation.

3. We’ve been around since 1965. Financial strength is a powerful benefit these days, no doubt. Communities that exhibit staying power are a lot safer than half-finished ones from builders without a strong track record. But the flip side is that the longer the community has been around, the older its population. A lot of baby boomers would prefer being around people their own age – or younger.

4. Great suburban location. Active adult communities take up a lot of land. Developers have tended to place them out in the sticks where real estate was cheap and plentiful. But increasingly, boomers are rejecting places that are strictly a place to live and are far from towns, shopping, and cultural venues. Master planned communities that integrate some of those features into a walkable town are often much more attractive to boomers. And so are urban apartment or town house complexes that keep boomers in the thick of things.

5. You will love our Florida location. Florida has an image problem. Although as we reported recently, it is still a popular place to retire, there are hordes of boomers who “hate” Florida. Although many of the haters have probably not spent much time there, developers in the Sunshine State need to do a better job of convincing people that their state is not just a hell on earth populated by outsize bugs, suffocating humidity, endless ticky tacky developments, and hordes of old people. There are places in Florida that defy the stereotype, and many that fulfill it have the virtues of great weather and cheap prices.

6. Enjoy these luxury homes with the championship golf courses. There is certainly an enormous segment of baby boomers who have significant financial resources who can afford luxury homes with expensive amenities. The high end should do well in the long term. But the majority of boomers haven’t saved enough to afford luxury. What they need is affordable – as long as these communities are pitched as offering value. Smaller homes, fewer but carefully chosen amenities, nice finishing touches – boomers might be able to afford these type of homes and not feel they are having to deprive themselves.

7. It’s a great investment for your kids. Wrong. Most boomers have always been in it for themselves. We didn’t save enough, we took out home equity loans, and we went for instant gratification. We spent a lot for our kids’ colleges and weddings – for most of us the younger generation is on its own.

8. We’ve got a wonderful Home Owners Association. Baby boomers are rebels, always have been. The idea of following lots of rules that someone else made up is the last thing a boomer wants. Even if they protect the common good, there are many boomers who will never live anywhere that a Home Owners Association is in charge.

9. We’re very affordably priced. As we discussed earlier, most boomers don’t have enough for a secure retirement. But we don’t want to be reminded of that. Shown that value exists and that self-image can be preserved, boomers will buy.

10. Our community is great for couples. Baby boomers have always had a high divorce rate and that will continue. At the current pace 400,000 couples a year over 50 will be getting a divorce in 2030. Communities that don’t try to create an environment that singles recognize as friendly will miss out on a lot of prospects.

The marketers that get it
Fortunately there a lot of savvy marketing people who understand what makes baby boomers tick. They start by calling themselves active adult communities, master planned communities, or other appealing terms. Most of the advertisers that we talk with get it. Lake Weir Living, for example, understands that there is a baby boomer segment who wants to retire with their “big toys”. On Top of The World is a well-established active adult community in Florida, but they have skillfully avoided anything that smacks of old in their marketing. Sun City Hilton Head, Solvita, and Valencia (Active adult paradise) all have figured out how to design communities that will attract skittish baby boomers to Florida. Even communities that are mostly targeted to World War II babies can find a way to avoid sounding like places for old people – notably Abby Delray and the Watermark at Logan Square.

What Can You Do With This Information?
You can a lot about a community by how it is marketed. Visiting a community, and preferably staying there for at least a few days, is an even better way to understand if the community is baby boomer friendly. Are the amenities what you are looking for – for example a first class exercise facility with indoor pool, plus plenty of walking and biking trails? If you choose to live in a town, can you walk or bike to shop or take part in activities? Do the people look and talk like folks you would like to hang with? And lastly, knowing that image is important for baby boomers, does the community look like the kind of place you would like to have friends and family visit you in?

For further reference:
Our inspiration for this article was a somewhat negative, but highly interesting article from SmartMoney.com. They took it in a different, more far-reaching direction – we aimed at baby boomers and retirement.
10 Things Baby Boomers Won’t Say

Comments: Please share your ideas about how boomers feel and what they want/don’t want below.

Posted by John Brady on November 28th, 2011

25 Comments »

  1. Heard a lot about Sun City in Georgetown, TX, so decided to tour it in October. Full of amenities, 3 golf courses, etc. But, huge, sprawling development. I estimate that for most homeowners, it is a 2-3 mile drive just to get out of the development. Only shopping in the development is pharmacies (1) and convenience store (1). The nearest shopping outside of Sun City appears to be strip malls. Great place if you want to live in a cocoon and have your food and medicine delivered.

    by Warren Capps — November 30, 2011

  2. When I visit some older active communities I feel for their future. The facilities look fine when you come in the gate, but then you see how the aging elevators and the fraying carpets in the hallways. Add in the elderly residents, many of them crotchety, and you wonder how these places will play with baby boomers. The reaction of me and my siblings to where my mother and father lived is – nice place for them, but definitely not for us!

    by John Brady — November 30, 2011

  3. You are ‘right on’ with your 10 items Baby Boomers don’t want to hear! They are exactly what turns off my husband and myself about ‘retirement communities’.
    In fact after looking at several (inc The Villages with all its amenities), we’ve decided to stay away. We don’t need daily reminders when seeing many ‘medical supply’ trucks driving through the neighborhood!

    by CJ Baskel — November 30, 2011

  4. Excellent summary! I am 57, starting to look at and think about my next move whcih will be in 2 years, and every single thing you predicted as a turn-off are, indeed total turn-offs for me! Good research, good insights.

    by Leslie — November 30, 2011

  5. For the condescension that colors many community descriptions I blame not the writers but the developers / builders who don’t know enough to hire writers who are Boomers themselves. We all remember how icky we thought it would be to be 40. We must expect the same mentality in bright young scribblers new to the ad biz.

    Some wonderful communities are hidden behind awful website language — and you’ll never know if you don’t make the rounds. Behind every rigorously upbeat brochure is a real place with real people. Find some residents and have a frank and open chat. If you find a place with active and inventive folks who – like you – shun a rigidly controlled program, you may have found your new home.

    by Janice — November 30, 2011

  6. I just read the article and it very informative for this 62 YO that is going to FL in January to look at some real estate. In line with the point that boomers are rebellious, I won’t be looking at anything with HOA. LOL

    by Stan — November 30, 2011

  7. Don’t throw out the H(orC)OA with the bathwater. If the community’s physical aspects (home size, amenities, culture, shopping, medical providers) appeal, then examine its legal aspects, the association rules and regs. Even a rebel might not want a nightly beer party held amongst the junk cars on the jungle lawn next door. A “community of rebels” is not necessarily an oxymoron.

    by oldnassau — November 30, 2011

  8. I can’t imagine owning a place that is seasonal without an HOA. I am 55 years old and I own a place in Alligator Park-Punta Gorda Gorda, FL. It is a resident owned park and RV Resort.The RV portion is a thriving business for the park. Being resident owned means the people own the place by buying a share. Right now $22,000. We run the place, hire the help, and vote on all the rules. It keeps the maintenance fee low and is run like a fine tuned clock. I enjoy all the amenities and activities for my 4 months that I am down there from MI. I totally enjoy the 85 degree pool that I couldn’t have if I owned in a regular neighborhood. Who would I hire to keep up the pool and lawn and how could I afford that. I have no worries about my place in Alligator Park, while I am in MI.The office keeps a close eye on everything for me. It is the best deal going and I have an absolutely awesome time with the close knit people from all over the country and Canada. The commradery is really unbelievable. It is instant friends, just like family. If you want to have a good time than you need to be in a 55 and over, absolutely resident owned, to keep costs down. Rich investors don’t own our community. Rich investors constantly raise maintenance fees and don’t want to put money back in to those communities. They will raise your HOA fees constantly, you will get bombarded with special assessment fees every year and the place will look real shabby because they don’t care and don’t manage the money right.Alligator Park has a nice website. Check it out!

    by Susan Cooper — November 30, 2011

  9. Great article. Sometimes it seems these places are built and marketed without any sense of the customer. It is gratifying to see the reference to the importance of recognizing there are and will be many single retirees. It doesn’t mean that you want only singles but many of these retirement communities are definitely couples oriented and the marketing is certainly focused that way. They are missing a large group for sure. Would love to see more communities begin to understand this.

    by Mejask — November 30, 2011

  10. The euphemisticly named “Active Adult”(AA) communities certainly aren’t for everyone. However, this is one of those decisions where it helps to visit the communities your interested in as they can differ dramatically. I personally retired at 59 (I’m 60 now) and moved to one of these “AA” communities. I looked at several nice ones including one of the biggest and most well known and established.. “The Villages” in central Florida. In the csse of “The Villages,” I decided it wasn’t for me…at least, not at this stage of the game. First of all, “The Villages” is huge. At the time I visited (2 years ago), there were already 75,000 households. And, that number was potentially going to double. While I was very impressed with everything it had to offer, including free golf on it’s exectutive courses, I was turned off mostly because it was like a state within the state of Florida. It has it’s own zip code, post office and hospital, for example. You never had to leave. And, for me, there wasn’t that much to leave for in the immediate surrounding area. Aside from younger visiting family members and grand children, I didn’t see that many people my age. Most seemed considerably older. Impressions being what they are ….right or wrong, it just seemed like the place was just too “senior oriented” and, there was no escape at all even while going to a supermarket. We opted instead, for a Del Webb community called the Carolina Preserve” (CP) near Raleigh in NC. Although, my wife and I still felt a little ahead of the curve and young for this sort of “AA” community right now. However, it was a bit different. We felt we could actually grow into it. Moving is a major undertaking and not much fun, so we weren’t looking forward to another move in a few years. Also, the location in Cary, NC is in an area where there are mostly young families and young communities. The CP is considerably smaller than “The Villages” as it will top out at about 1400 homes when completed. However, more importantly, once I leave the gates of the CP I don’t feel like I’m living in total “Geezerville” at all, which can be characteristic of some places especially in certain areas of Florida. I happen to like most of the people I’ve met in my community. OK, for the most part they are a bit older than I am. However, this isn’t all bad. They are quiet and non-disruptive. Some are very active and athletically inclined and others aren’t. The community is relatively new (about 5 years old), clean and well maintained. And, while I might be a rebel not like people telling me what I can or can not do with my own property, I feel. by and large, the HOA rules serve the broader good of the community. I don’t need someone repairing cars on their front lawn, or turning their yard into a miniature golf course with all sorts of pin wheels, religious statues and lawn jockeys. Also, I don’t think a “cat hoarder” would be allowed to become my next door neighbor which was my plight back on Long Island. I also like having all the amenities including a nice club house, gym, pools as well as the availability of social clubs and organizations, etc. I also like that I can be as engaged and active in the community’s clubs and groups or not be… as I choose. We personally didn’t feel that we wanted to be surrounded by mostly working families with little kids and teenagers at this stage of our lives. There are of course some people at the CP who are still working. This area with “Reseach Triangle Park” as the economic driver in the region, still offers a considerable amount of working opportunities …hense the influx of young families. Right now, our decision seems to be working for us. The area itself is very convenient. It’s near the airport, has tons of shopping, theaters, etc.. There are also a lot of colleges and universities nearby and being located in the center of the so-called “Triangle” (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), it offers a diversity of activities comparable to what I was used to having moved from Long Island and the metro NY area. However, now I don’t have to deal with the ridiculous traffic, congestion, high housing costs and absurd RE taxes.

    by Artie — November 30, 2011

  11. I had to smile as I read this article because I find it so true. My husband and I are full-time RVers which means we get to travel wherever and whenever we please. Our motorhome is small, and we do not own a house. After six years, I recently decided that I should own a house so we began our search in all the big “active” communities, shying away from those that had the “geezers”. I fell in love with a particular “house” in a community in the sticks but I just didn’t care. However, my wise husband suggested we rent one first in this community to see if we actually liked the COMMUNITY and the distance we would have to drive for any services…15 miles! Well, after 11 days we left. The house was not worth being so alone and away from any shopping, culture etc. I guess what I am trying to say is to consider RENTING before you buy. You may not get the exact house, but you will be in the community. If you can’t find a community that suits you, get a motorhome. You can always leave if there are “beer parties on the lawn next door” of if it is like a morgue!

    by Beverly — November 30, 2011

  12. After two years of researching 55+ active adult communities in Florida for our retirement, my husband and I have decided that Florida is not for us. Too buggy, too hot and too many golf courses! We don’t play golf and don’t intend to learn so why do all the developers think access to so many golf courses is a great attraction – it’s not for everyone. We have decided we would prefer the four seasons and are researching PA and VA.

    by Bev — December 1, 2011

  13. Responding to Bev, my husband and I live in PA, we are looking toward VA for retirement. Still 4 seasons with more moderate winters! Every winter in PA assures us that VA will be a strong retirement possibility. We don’t golf, but are interested in walking communities, and biking trails, perhaps rails-to-trails nearby.

    by Joan — December 1, 2011

  14. Roger that on Active Adult Communities and HOA. I am in a battle with this HOA that has lasted 5 years. Never Again under any circumstances. I have earned the right to do Exactly what I want to do in my retirement and Will Not play by some fool’s rules that is under 30. Remember Folks, You Can’t Trust Anybody Under 30 !

    by Tom — December 1, 2011

  15. Indeed, where to retire is a tough decision especially when spouses are polar opposites. I grew up in the North Shore of Massachusetts..literally a 20-minute walk to the Atlantic ocean. I grew up eating lobstah, chowdah and those wonderful Ipswich fried clams. Hubby is a good ole’ country boy from East Texas who ate fried chicken, greens, biscuits and pinto beans. My Irish grandmothers never cooked a chicken in their lives…rather, it was beef, Yorkshire pudding, green beans and mashed potatoes. I showed my hubby how to catch, cook and eat lobstah and Maryland blue crabs. I tried to interest him in the Bruins, Red Sox and the New England Saturday night suppah, consisting of beans, hot dogs and brown bread. He won’t eat corned beef & cabbage on St. Paddy’s day either, which I regard as a Cardinal Sin. I’ve given up. He wants to move back to Mayberry where the “hot spots” are the Five & Dime, church suppers, the town jail and Floyd’s Barber Shop. For entertainment, there’s Otis the Town Drunk and the ole fishin’ hole. For a really special occasion, the guys used to take their best girls to the local diner for burgers, fries and iced tea. Hubby also hates snow/cold. Sigh….

    by Eileen — April 5, 2012

  16. Good article, being a baby boomer myself’ class of 1951, I can relate to this. I think that the part that boomers are just starting to deal with as a cohort is the difference between wanna and havvto. My Mom class of 1920 put off he decision to leave her home until well into her 80s. I cn imagine that many of us will do the same. The statistics are not with us however. We don’t want to hear that only about 40 percent get to finish life living on their own. The other 70 percent of us will have to make other arrangements. My Mom is in a good assisted care setting and at 92 she is doing pretty good. It was a choice she eventually had to make because she couldn’t take care of herself anymore. Now she has that and her children visit her weekly. It’s amazing to see that many many of her neighboring residents are rarely visited. For me I would like to make arrangements for where to live ahead of having an illness or three. Maybe some of us are looking forward to down sizing and experiencing the freedom of having less attachment to stuff and having to take care of it while we can still enjoy the lightening of our loads. As materialistic as we actually are as boomers we do have the ideal of being able to recreate ourselves in a new life for new adventures.

    by John — May 29, 2013

  17. Eileen, while my husband and I are not complete opposites, we have dissimilar taste on retirement locations. We visited Florida 2 months ago to research active adult communities. He loved the humidity and sunshine while I longed for a break in the stifling weather. I feel that living in the active adult communities is like living in a fantasy world, being walled off from the real world whereas he could envision living in it. Also all the houses/villas looked somewhat the same. They were so closely packed together and one of the developments we looked at was in the middle of nowhere. We will go back during the hell months of July or August to see if we can take even more higher temps and humidity. We’re from New England and I love everything about it while he wants to move to Florida.

    by Lana — May 30, 2013

  18. Hi reading above there are quite a few articles..as usual ..about Florida relocations..in the past some ‘blogs’ talked about home insurance in Florida..and it is recommended highly..before you buy ..to check the rates and availability…several major companies will not issue a policy in Fla and the ones that do are at a high cost ..usually, with high deductables..we were serious about a sale of a home there and that changed our plans..anyway be sure to check that ..any info would be appreciated..

    by Robbie — May 31, 2013

  19. Been in Florida (God’s waiting room) since 1996 and can’t wait to get the hell outta here. Elderly mother in law kept us here so we could take care of here but she died about 6 month’s ago and as soon as we sell our modular home – we are outta here. Hallelujah. Like to move to a place where the marjority of people are not in (bless them) wheel chairs, oxgen tanks, cains, 100 lbs overweight etc. Don’t believe me – try it for awhile.

    I would advise anyone to come and RENT for a year and then make a decision. That is probably good advice where ever a person wants to move to. We intend to take this advice in our next move.

    by Robert — May 31, 2013

  20. Thank you all for you sharing your Experiences. I personally will not go to Florida… I am looking for more than living like my parents did in Boca! But your stories are priceless and many make me laugh right out loud. And always the reminders of who we are… Rebel against “rules ” while we still can is tantamount to who we always were as a generation. As soon as I hear some one telling me I “have to…” or “I can’t” I feel myself bristling. I am not a partying fool either so I don’t think those big communities are for me. Thank you again for sharing, it’s really helped.

    by Deborah — May 31, 2013

  21. Just read a book titled: Why you shouldn’t move to Florida” I was pretty much convinced before I read it, but that book confirmed and reinforced my thoughts.

    by Mark P — June 1, 2013

  22. to Mark P and others – I just read this and it sure impacted me more than intellectually knowing =

    “Life has an expiration date on it” Duh! Let’s awake and smell the roses – move where ever you wish – Life is soooooooooo short. I looked in the mirror one day and said, “what the hell happen?”

    Robert

    by Robert — June 2, 2013

  23. Amen to that Robert. One day you are a young stud, and the next you are a old man. What the hell did happen?

    by Bob P — June 2, 2013

  24. Life, gentlemen, that’s what happened (and I wouldn’t want it any other way)

    by Stacey — June 2, 2013

  25. Lol! Life goes by in the blink of an eye and the older you get, the faster it goes. I told that to my adult daughter recently to which she replied, “That’s not fair!”

    Seriously, we all need to make our decisions very carefully. As some people advised, rent in the area you think you might want to settle in before you buy.. Consider all the expenses. While Florida’s real estate is reasonable (compared to New England) and they do not have income tax, the HOA fees and real estate taxes are high. What to do?!

    by Lana — June 2, 2013

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