The length of time people spend on a retirement community waiting list can range from as little as six months to nearly a decade. Many retirees just don’t feel ready to take this step, and moving them along in the sales process isn’t easy or simple. Here are five community must-haves that might help turn wait-listers into residents.
1. Pet Friendliness. The ability to bring a pet into a retirement community is now an extremely important option for prospective residents, as we learned from our retirement community research study, Project Looking Glass II. For many, pets are considered family members that should be welcomed into the community, a sentiment possibly reflecting the trend toward smaller families or families with no children. Many people report remaining on the waiting list until a pet-friendly unit opens up and have objections about the limited number of these units available.
2. Ample Living Space. Many retirees express an interest in spacious two-bedroom units and may decide to remain on the waiting list until one becomes available. They also have a desire for more storage, possibly reflecting this generation’s challenges with downsizing from the larger homes of today.
3. Green Lifestyle. Today’s retirees are more environmentally conscious than their predecessors. From campus recycling programs, to compost spreads on community gardens, to lectures on sustainability, efforts to “go green” are seen as practical and desirable by younger residents.
4. Multi-Level Wellness Activities. One of the challenges facing retirement community marketers is reaching Boomers with varying degrees of fitness and activity levels – there is no “typical” resident. An 80 year old might cycle 15-20 miles a day, while a 68 year old may prefer quiet strolls through the campus. Offering a wider range of physical activities – from easy to ultra-challenging – may give a community a broader appeal.
5. Wireless in Every Unit. Most residents we talked to have a laptop or desktop computer, and many own smartphones, e-readers and tablets. They’re Skypeing, posting and uploading. Having wireless is important to them — not just in common areas, but in their individual apartments or cottages. Older facilities might do well to overhaul outdated systems and have in-house tech support available to help residents in need of assistance with their devices.
Today’s mature market is more informed, more culturally literate and more technologically savvy than their predecessors. They know what they want and when they want it, and they demand a voice in everything from food service to community operations. In short, they are no longer simply residents – they are customers. To remain competitive and appealing, communities need to stay ahead of trends and cater to the needs of this new generation of potential residents.