Boomers Pose Major Challenges for the Future of Traditional Retirement Communities, New Study Finds

Apr 17, 2012, 15:30 ET from Varsity

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Luxury villas, detached homes, one- and two-bedroom apartments built for the golden years — and sitting empty. Is the independent living model — a standard feature at the traditional retirement community — an endangered species? It could be, unless serious changes are made to accommodate the Boomer generations, according to a recent study.

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The Next Generation: Understanding What the Boomer Consumer Wants From Retirement Living, provides some surprising insights into the mind-set of Boomers as they consider retirement living options, their attitudes toward current community attributes, and what they'll be looking for in the future in terms of services, housing and design — should they choose to relocate at all.

Based on focus group findings and tours of prominent retirement communities involving adults in their 60s and 70s, the research was conducted by Varsity, a leading marketing communications and research agency specializing in the mature market. Initial findings were presented at the "By Design" conference in February, in conjunction with retirement living consultancy CliftonLarsonAllen, architectural firm SFCS, and others. 

Demand for traditional continuing care retirement communities, known in the industry as CCRCs, is poised for growth in the coming decades as the population ages and experiences declining health. A glut of high-end independent living products built during the housing boom, decreasing real estate values, and the increasing availability of home care and "aging-in-place" have created serious census issues for many traditional communities, which are finding it increasingly difficult to sell through to the Boomer generations. These potential residents are working longer, increasingly seeking younger-feeling, more active options, or are remaining in their homes until physically unable.

Some of the study's top-level findings:

  • Many living spaces are deemed too small, too opulent, and do not provide sufficient storage
  • Technology will play a major role, as two-computer households are now commonplace
  • Transportation should be on-demand
  • Dining should not be a formal event, and must include healthy options
  • "Green" labels are met with skepticism
  • Payment options are too limited, and should include traditional mortgage or rent structures
  • Healthcare must be available, and should include memory support

"Boomers have redefined a number of consumer areas," says John Bassounas, director of client services for Varsity. "Aging and the concept of retirement itself are no exceptions. Clearly, they're not going to accept the same community where mom and dad or grandma lived, nor will they be content to sit poolside or play shuffleboard. This research showed that, while assisted living and skilled nursing will always be necessary, many communities, architects, planners and directors will have to rethink the whole idea of independent living. Understanding Boomer consumers' mind-sets, lifestyles and life stages are the best ways to plan for their impact on those products and services."

Based in Harrisburg, Pa., Varsity provides marketing services for clients in the retirement living, consumer goods and services, technology and healthcare practice areas. The agency's client roster includes Sodexo Senior Living, American Standard Brands, Delta Health Technologies and a number of continuing care retirement communities across the country.

Members of the Varsity team are available to provide in-depth presentations of the report, either via webinar or in person. To schedule a presentation or for additional information, contact Matt Bekelja at 717-652-1277 or

About Varsity
Varsity is the nation's leading full-service marketing communications agency focused on winning the mature market. We connect the mature market with brands through one of four main categories: retirement living, consumer goods & services, technology and healthcare. Research drives our work and our team of passionate strategists in the disciplines of creative, public relations, interactive and media. For more information, visit


Shane M. Swisher

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SOURCE Varsity