October 15 — Ask 10 baby boomers what they are looking for in retirement communities and you are likely to come up with dozens of different answers. Baby boomers are used to marching to their own drummers, and there is no reason that their choices in retirement communities will be any different. This article draws from a number of different sources and is intended to provide a representative sample of different opinions.
Golf attracts many to active adult communities
Amenities. Here are some of the top amenities found in a survey done in 2000 by the National Association of Home Builders:
1. Hiking or Jogging Trails. More than half say these would influence purchase decision; interest goes up with income
2. Outdoor spaces. Park areas and the like are a must
3. Public transportation. Reliance on driving a car for everything is undesirable
4. Lakes. Being near a body of water such as a lake or ocean is very desirable.
Retirement Community Preferences
We reviewed some random preferences at some online sites where baby boomers discussed what they were looking for in a retirement community. These are the issues that were most often mentioned (in random order):
– Proximity of medical care. This is particularly important for people in less than optimum health. It is not yet much of a factor for baby boomers, but older people see the availability of a continuum of care at the same facility (independent to assisted to nursing care) as being very important
– Themed recreation. Some people are looking for very specific recreation opportunities – golf, marinas, flying, arts, cooperative living, astronomy, equestrian, etc.
– Gated – or not. Some people love gated communities – others loathe the idea
– Mixed generations vs. age restricted communities. Some people wouldn’t think of living with people of mixed ages, others think enough of those young people already!
– One story living and low maintenance. Builders constructing multi-level homes for baby boomers do so at their peril. Most baby boomers are ready to take it easy and have some fun.
– Health clubs are very popular
– Lots to do in the community
– Proximity to a city
– Location near family. This is perhaps the biggest determinant of where someone retires – people usually don’t want to be too far away from loved ones.
– A real downtown. Communities that have a thriving commercial center where people can walk around (and even better, walk to) are viewed very positively. The more activities – like festivals, farmer’s markets, cultural events – the better. Even in a private active adult community a viable community center is a real plus.
– Sustainability. This issue isn’t as pervasive as some others, but there are many baby boomers for whom the issue of environmental sustainability (i.e,; the green movement) is a key factor in their retirement community decision
– One (or two) home offices. 27% of baby boomers say they never intend to retire. Many will work from home
– Vacation homes. According to the National Association of Realtors, four out of 10 will convert their existing vacation home into a permanent retirement residence
– Urban vs. rural. Many want to live in an urban environment, while quite a few want rural
– Lower cost of living and warmer climate are important
Summary – How Will Baby Boomer Retirements Differ?
Obviously there are a lot of similarities between baby boomers and their parents’ generations. One big difference is in the preference for more physical activities like walking and jogging trails. Another is a strong preference for public transportation. The market is relatively new and very dynamic – the builders who can read the pulse of this big and changing market will come out on top.