Persuading boomers to consider once-popular retirement homes is an uphill battle.
Varsity, a Harrisburg, Pa., company that specializes in marketing to "mature audiences," did a survey earlier this year and came to some striking conclusions about boomer attitudes toward continuing-care retirement communities, or CCRCs.
If you're not familiar with the term, these are the kinds of communities where residents first move into an independent living area. As they age, they can move to assisted living or skilled nursing if they need it -- often for the same set fee. Some of these facilities are amenity-filled; others are more Spartan. Not long ago, they were very popular.
Varsity's mature marketing strategist, Derek Dunham, says the first thing the company's research identified is how boomer attitudes differ fundamentally from those of the Greatest Generation that preceded them. "That generation was more willing to accept and appreciated what they were offered. Boomers are much more critical. They expect everything to be customized to them personally," Dunham says.
To see what it would take to get boomers to look at CCRCs as part of their retirement planning, Variety surveyed potential customers ages 60 to 75 and reached these conclusions:
Don't ask for money upfront. The previous generations of users accepted the concept of paying anywhere from hundreds of thousands up to $1 million or more in nonrefundable entrance fees. Boomers almost universally reject this concept but are willing to consider rentals or traditional mortgages.
Bigger is better. Older facilities often have bedrooms designed for twin beds and tiny kitchens. Boomers want bedrooms with king-size beds, kitchens for entertaining and spacious living rooms.
Technology is king. Potential residents expect access to high-speed Internet for multiple devices and multichannel television as standard amenities.
Places to put their stuff. Older residents had lived in smaller homes and were willing to part with many of their belongings when they moved in. Boomers want their stuff -- and garages, big closets and storage areas to put it.
No pricey amenities. Boomers don't want to pay for what they don't use.
Transportation is vital. Offering a bus a couple times a week doesn't cut it. Boomers expect 24-hour transit service to virtually any place they might want to go.
Tasty food and a little wine with dinner. Boomers are picky about what they eat, and anyone who is feeding them has to deal with a variety of special diets and dietary whims. On top of that, the food has to taste delicious and be served when and how boomers want it.
Hold the religion. Many of these facilities are owned by faith-based organizations, which is OK with boomers, but they don't want to hear about the organization's views or have the sponsoring religion interject its perspective or symbols into their day.