Baby Boomers have always been market disrupters. A generation numbering 76 million can shape and push markets in bold new directions.

As the oldest Baby Boomers turn 72 this year, they are set to shake up the way seniors live.  Their idea of desirable senior living is not a “big box” building filled with other old people, particularly if it separates them from the rest of the world.  They want something different.

Baby Boomers seem to have a different set of priorities and some innovators are developing communities that speak to those desires.

Priority #1 – Living Where the Action is
The Baby Boom generation shows a penchant for urban living.  Many are abandoning the suburban homes where they raised their children and moving to the city.  They want to be close to culture, recreation, restaurants, entertainment, and people of all ages including, perhaps, their adult children.  Walkability is a major feature of urban surroundings, allowing residents to access other people and services without needing a car.

Some of those moving back to the city are choosing to rent – there has been a 43% increase in renters over the age of 60 in recent years.

Urban senior living often comes in the form of high-rise structures with easy access to top-notch medical services and retail right in the building.  Some communities feature street-facing restaurants, hair salons, boutiques, meeting rooms and auditorium space to bring the outside world in, creating an active, multigenerational space that is available even to those who cannot readily leave the building.

Inspir at Carnegie Hill is on the upper east side of Manhattan and represents a luxury example of urbanized senior living:

Other senior living communities build a town around the housing, essentially creating a town within a town.  These villages tend to focus on a mix of retail and residential, and incorporate restaurants, community theater, medical services and rich quality of life.  Perhaps the best known “town” is Margaritaville in Daytona Beach, Florida, where even the grocery store is accessible by golf cart:

Priority #2 – Engaging in Meaningful Activity
Baby Boomers want to continue leading vibrant, active lives that both engage and challenge them.  Urban environments offer many opportunities for purposeful activity, as do other locations that build the purpose in.  Affinity “colonies” are on the rise, drawing residents with commonalities other than age – some center around military service, careers in education, artistic pursuits or spiritual interests.  Others are more activity-centered where organic gardens are planned and cultivated by the residents or, in the case of Aspen Ridge in Bend, Oregon, the residents develop, brew, bottle and consume craft beer on-site:

Priority #3 – Continued Opportunities to Learn
Baby Boomers have an appetite for continued learning through every stage of life.  This desire for ongoing education is fueling the growth of university-based retirement communities.  Built on or next to established campuses, these communities numbered over 100 in the U.S. as of 2014.  College campuses offer a great deal to seniors, including a variety of athletic events, cultural opportunities, fitness/recreation centers, libraries and access to younger people.  University-based retirement communities afford seniors the option of enrolling in classes and some even invite older campus residents to mentor international students.  Not surprisingly, some residents of these communities are alumni or former professors.  Lasell Village is right on the Lasell College campus near Boston and actually requires residents to complete 450 hours of learning and fitness activity each year:

In addition to developing communities that speak to the priorities of Baby Boomers, there are serious efforts underway to make senior living environments financially accessible to middle-income consumers.  Experts say that cutting just $15,000 out of residential fees annually would open the market to an additional 5.9 million people.

Click here to schedule a CEU presentation on this topic and learn more about the future of senior living.