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Boomers are picky

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

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.

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June 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I also hope this report is exaggerated. I do understand that people would expect to pay reasonable rates for services provided. Why ask them to pay a million dollars if they might live a month? Is that fair? They should have rental or mortgage rates appropriate to what the facility offers. I don't believe anyone expects these places to be cheap, considering that they end up offering quite a bit of care as a person gets more feeble and ends up in the skilled nursing area, sometimes for quite a long period. My grandfather lived in one, it provided good care and was what he needed, it was more on the lines of what the article describes as "previous facility types". As you move from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing, you lose space and need to get rid of more possessions. My husband's grandmother (who was from the same era) lived in a much more upscale facility, more on the lines of what the article is describing the boomers might look for. Her initial apartment was very large, much like a nice condo anywhere, with a FULL set of furniture and a very large kitchen. I know she paid a lot for it. People with money will want someplace nice to live (not someplace that looks like a bad motel redecorated 20 years ago), reasonable amenities, a reasonable way to get around. Everyone these days will want wi-fi and their tv's. Food that doesn't take horrible, but gourmet chefs? If they're that rich, they can hire their own. Same with cars, if they're that rich, hire their own limo. All facilities should be prepared to accommodate all different medical diets, which is different than preparing all meals to order. People with money will want upscale, not everyone will be able to afford what this article is describing, many lost a lot of their money. Some will only be able to afford the more "basic" facilities out there, so I think there will still be a market for them. Not every boomer is rich.

April 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

It's been a while since I laughed out loud at a Bankrate article. I sincerely hope that the average Baby Boomer is not like the list above. To paraphrase, according to market research boomers in retirement would like to:

1)Not pay upfront for access to expensive, long term services (but they'll swing a monthly payment,assuming they don't have other stuff to spend their money on )
2)Keep stuff they no longer need (Boy, getting rid of that stuff sounds like work. And who knows, they might need to mow a lawn again, or Suzy would like her leg warmers from the 80's.)
3)Have tons of space to live and entertain
4)Have access to a personal chef and chauffeur
5)Have faith based organizations to help them out in their old age, but don't want to hear about any pesky religious obligations or theories.

If this market research is accurate,then if I were an owner, I'd probably start shutting down my continuing-care retirement community and let the boomers fend for themselves.