Commentary

5 Ways Boomers Are Rewriting Retirement

Earlier this month in Boston, my team and I attended the 2015 Annual Meeting and Expo for LeadingAge, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to expand the world of possibilities for the aging. This year’s theme was “Be the Voice,” which aligns with the fields needing to change along with the Boomers entering retirement. I wanted to share a few key themes I heard from keynote speakers and in conversation with conference participants.

1. Demographics are disruptive. More attention must be paid to the impact of demographics on aging services organizations. The transitional generation is impacting communities now.We must appeal to the needs and desires of the Boomer while serving long-time residents from the silent generation. Although the average age of Boomers is 69, the average age of Independent Living residents is in the low 80s. We must balance the needs of people in all stages of living. 

2. Boomers want to be the authors of their stories as they age. Boomers want to be active participants in their life journeys, not passive recipients of care. To make retirement living more appealing to this generation, a coalition from our industry has worked to develop an alternative to the name “Continuing Care Retirement Community.” (These four words, particularly “care” and “retirement,” haven’t been embraced by Boomers.) The proposed new name, “Life Plan Community,” was introduced at the conference.

3. Live longer. Live better. This is a nice tagline, and it reinforces that aging is not just about quantity of life, but also about quality. Now, more than ever, communities are empowering residents to take control of their happiness and well-being. Some communities are taking part in the “Blue Zones” initiative, inspired by studies of towns around the world in which people are the happiest and live the longest. Others are offering “brain training,” which may help reduce the risk of dementia. 

4. The LGBT campground. A bold symbol of inclusiveness at the show, this area fostered campfire conversations about ways to create programs and communities that make LGBT individuals feel welcomed and supported. According to a presentation by David Woods and Jane Danner of Volunteers of America, older LGBT adults are five times less likely to access senior services due to fear about how they will be treated, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. 

5. Boomer shopping continues to shift online. According to our new study, “From the Outside In: Insights into Prospect Decision-making,” 0% of residents used the Yellow Pages to begin their search for a retirement community. 

Other key themes at LeadingAge Boston: sustainability, living small, dining innovations, urban living and much more. The wide range of trends and thinking underscores the point that Boomers are anything but cookie-cutter, and each wants to author his or her own life story. We don’t need to write their stories for them; we just need to give them the tools to do it.

2 comments about "5 Ways Boomers Are Rewriting Retirement ".
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  1. Arthur Koff from RetiredBrains.com, November 23, 2015 at 11:09 a.m.

    Living longer and better is certainly the most important consideration for most of us "older" folks (I am 80). I am certainly not interested in extending my life if I don't have a good quality of life.
    RetiredBrains covers this area from two areas: http://www.retiredbrains.com/health-care/how-to-live-better-longer and the end of life decisions you must make in advance for your wellbeing and that of your family see: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/review-your-estate-plan-against-this-14-point-checklist-2015-07-20

  2. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, November 24, 2015 at 4:35 a.m.

    Valuable insights; thank you.  But pLease double-check the sentence where you report the average age of Boomers.  Boomers were born 1946 to 1964.  (I'm a leading edge Boomer who's 67 years old). I think you meant to say the OLDEST Boomers are now 69, right?

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