The Boomers have arrived!

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The label retirement is a bit like the F-word, we don’t like to use it but sometimes, well it’s just unavoidable. Nobody actually retires in the traditional sense anymore, we just move on to the next chapter of our lives. And we don’t slow down unless we want to, no sir, we move on to new experiences, opportunities and adventures. Some may continue working, at least part-time, others may take a well-deserved sabbatical before starting a new venture and some may get involved with charity work, church organisations or interest groups.

Baby Boomers were the post-war generation born between 1946 and 1964, making them the new generation moving into R-word territory. They changed the world of work and they will change this thing called retirement! Aged 57 to 75 today, they are planning, prepping and gearing up for the next chapter of their lives and they are rejecting traditional approaches to senior living. The old age home that worked for their parents with the smell of boiling cabbage wafting down the corridor, a stern-faced matron at reception, evening curfews and house rules certainly won’t do.

So what do we know about Boomer priorities and how can this information inform the lifestyle village of the future? Let me share just four considerations with you.

1. Independence and choice

Boomers are smart enough to realize that while they may be vital and healthy now, eventually father time may bring physical challenges that could impact their independence. Today even so-called lifestyle retirement villages have the effect of cramping boomer’s style, expecting them to conform to the traditional rules of communal living. Many reject retirement village living for this reason.

So how can we accommodate the aspirations of boomers who reject the constraints of retirement village living but still need a solution that meets their changing needs over time? The solution is a mindset change, not for the boomer, but for the developers and operators of senior living estates. Everyone enjoys visiting a holiday resort, a private game lodge or a great hotel and no one feels constrained by the simple requirements of consideration for the family in the room next door. The mood is one of fun and enjoyment. It’s about hospitality, quality, convenience and doing things because we want to not because we have to. Rules are minimal and I am free to spend my time as I choose.

And when I need healthcare please provide it in my suite or in my home and give me the choice of what treatment I am prepared to accept. Modern technology is allowing individuals to extend their independence for much longer with remote monitoring and telemedicine advancing quickly. The latest news is that Discovery Health is introducing its hospital-in-the-home concept so that patients’ recovering from surgery do not require extended time in high care or a sub-acute facility. Boomers value their independence.

2. Lifestyle

The word is used so much these days that it is at risk of losing its true meaning. Every new retirement village is called a lifestyle estate but not all of them are, it’s just a marketing slogan used by developers who do not know any better. A lifestyle estate means that the management team running the estate are more concerned about delivering an excellent lived experience than they are about administration, not that the latter is unimportant.

Many years ago I attended a training program at Disney World in Orlando. Over the 3 days, they showed us how they manage to run such a vast organisation and yet deliver a guest experience that visitors never forget. They shared their four golden keys to customer service with us, each key designed to deliver an awesome guest experience. I never forgot that experience and can still recite the keys to this day, it made that much of an impression on me.

So there you have it, boomers value lifestyle so this must be at the heart of designing, building and operating a so-called lifestyle village. It should be managed like a great hotel or country club, nothing less will do. In the past retirement villages had a nursing culture and management was drawn from the healthcare industry. Today we strive for a hospitality culture and management is drawn from the hotel industry.

3. Technology and connectedness

The world has become a village through the internet, technology advances almost at the speed of light and most boomers are seeing the benefits of these advances and keeping up with change. Lifestyle estates need to keep up with the curve by offering high-speed internet as a standard, business centres for seniors who continue to work and technology to extend independence as people age.

Boomers have family in other towns, provinces and countries and want to remain connected. Today we use Skype, Zoom and Teams and by tomorrow new technology will replace these platforms.

Today for a very small cost it is possible to have a medical emergency device in every home linked to a 24/7 call centre capable of dispatching an ambulance and paramedics within minutes. And this is only first base. That same device can be used for the discreet remote monitoring of elderly or ill seniors, to manage medication and monitor vitals like blood pressure, sugar levels and temperature. These advances will enable seniors to extend their independence for much longer.

Technology is also enabling smart home devices, improved safety and security, reduced consumption and enhanced sustainability.

4. Sincerity and authenticity

I am a boomer myself and I see through the way some people engage with me. In our fast-moving world, it’s all about waxing the pitch, making the sale, delivery and moving on, no that is not what we meant and no we never promised that. Why am I not surprised?

Those boomers who consider buying a home in a lifestyle estate will be looking for sincerity from the get-go. Sales agents make the mistake of trying to make a sale when they should be facilitating a purchase. There’s a big difference. Benefit selling is fine if the seller is being honest but when you are dealing with someone about to invest a significant portion of their life savings, a different approach is required. I know the difference between someone who is trying to sell me and someone who is trying to understand my requirements and aspirations and to match these to a solution. The best solution for me.

The need for sincerity and authenticity does not stop with buying and selling but with the way lifestyle estates serve and look after their guests. The behaviour of management and staff in lifestyle estates can be the difference between a mediocre experience and a fantastic retirement lifestyle.

If you are a retirement village specialist I hope that you found this blog useful. If however, you are a boomer contemplating the next chapter of your life, I hope that it will firm your resolve to expect retirement village or lifestyle developers, whatever they call themselves, to consider your needs and aspirations rather than theirs. While some boomers will live independently at home for as long as possible, I believe that thought leaders in this industry will understand the generational shift and offer senior housing solutions that help boomers to match their lifestyle to their life stage and enjoy the next chapter.
The boomers have arrived!