It’s clear that for those now reaching retirement age, their lifestyles and values differ vastly from all of the generations preceding them.
Today’s seniors are not only far more financially and technology savvy, but are also healthier, have much greater leisure interests and, most importantly, want far more from their later years. Understanding these needs and characteristics will be essential to building communities to best accommodate the needs of our new older generation and allowing them to be independent for longer.
Changing perceptions of what ‘older living’ stands for is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for retirement living developers. Traditional options such as aging in place, senior “village” housing, assisted living and nursing homes are not as appealing to baby boomers as newer options such as hybrid care, life plan communities, branded living, urban living and university-affiliated living. Freedom of choice, movement and independence are most valuable to baby boomers as they continue to stay active and social.
This non-traditional senior living approach is a massive shift away from the older, institutionalised setting and is made possible through innovative design. By providing amenities complementing the care continuum and promoting wellness, residents of this generation will remain healthy and happy.
Flexible spaces and community interaction
One of the main challenges for older adults during the transitional period into senior living is overcoming the feeling of loneliness. In response to this, architects and interior designers can create inviting and adaptable social spaces engaging residents while attracting the local community.
Some examples of those spaces include areas to host interactive programs and activities, games and hobbies, well-being and exercise classes, and social programming and events. Pet-friendly areas, entertainment venues, outdoor spaces and flexible dining options bring a fresh take to the senior living experience while fostering intergenerational relationships within the community.
Thoughtful integration through design
Thoughtfully integrating retirement living into existing urban environments and mixed-use communities gives residents and their families more opportunities to spend time together and enjoy the offerings adjacent to the community. Non-traditional senior living locations, such as facilities near schools and universities, foster intergenerational activities and can aid in lifelong learning.
Integrating senior living into larger mixed-use communities also provides spaces for partnerships with businesses within the community. From local shops, art studios and even ballroom dancing, older adults can take advantage of their neighbourhood offerings and stay active within their community.
Members of the baby boomer generation values trying new things, personal growth, healthy living, individual choice and community service. It is time to design spaces that reflect their values and assimilate them into vibrant communities.
Prioritizing wellness in all forms
There is more to wellness than fitness centres and healthy eating stations. In a senior living community, it is important to focus on the holistic integration of emotional, mental, physical, social and spiritual wellness into spaces. Senior living communities can take cues from hospitality, fitness, dining and other types of wellness-oriented businesses to strengthen their offerings.
With the wellness industry steadily growing, it’s worth noting that senior well-being extends well beyond standard healthcare and focuses on lifelong learning, instructor- and technology-led exercise, health education and disease management, food and nutrition education and preparation, connection to nature, and intergenerational programming.
Non-traditional senior living developments are steadily eliminating the stigma around senior environments while empowering residents to live the life they want. Baby boomers are actively searching for communities that meet their growing demands of healthcare, dining and shopping. The idea of a one-size-fits-all senior living community no longer appeals to this vibrant generation of older adults, and as their interests and lifestyles shift, senior living communities need to adapt to their way of living.