By: Louise Johnson, MBA, LNHA The wave has just barely began to hit! This year Baby Boomers, the largest generational cohort in American history begin turning 65. It will be a time of unprecedented opportunity for those who understand and accommodate their needs and wants. Already, the media is awash with folks in their 50s and 60s, something never seen before—just look at TV commercials during primetime, and it is clear where the purchasing power lies. How will you position your business to take advantage of this? It’s no secret that Boomers are much different than their parents. The Silent Generation, raised during the Depression and accustomed to the sacrifices of wartime, have been (relatively!) easy to accommodate as they moved into senior housing. Not so Boomers! Raised by parents who wanted to give them everything they missed in the war years, Boomers were young adults during the tumultuous culture of the 60s, and entered their prime earning years in the “greed is good” mentality of the 80s. They’re used to having things and doing things. Their entrance into senior housing will necessitate a radical change in the industry, and many less agile communities will fall by the wayside. So what will Boomers be looking for?

1. A great living environment.

Apartments with upgrades like natural stone countertops, refrigerators with ice makers, washer/dryer in the unit, tile showers. Amenities might include an Internet café, a gym with more than a treadmill and exercise bike, a Jacuzzi and sauna. A pool is a must, preferably indoors for year-round swimming. A media room, with up-to-date equipment. Dining must be true restaurant style—the days of set hours and time-sensitive menus are gone.

2. The cultural environment will be crucial.

Bingo, quilting, and woodworking are not going to engage most Boomers. Provide guest speakers on subjects of interest (hint: NOT Medicare or life insurance) from a local cultural organization or institution of higher education. Offer classes in yoga, investing, and wellness. In fact, a wellness center, staffed by a licensed nurse, is already becoming commonplace. One of the best services to offer is a volunteer bank. Boomers want to stay engaged in their communities, and a coordinator who helps match residents to volunteer opportunities will help them, and the community at large, as well as being an excellent marketing tool.

3. Technology.

The Boomers are the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs generation. They have embraced technology, and now consider it a given. Offering WiFi throughout the community is going to be mandatory. Charging stations in all common areas will be expected. If cable or satellite is included, it should be more than the basics. Is all this expensive? Some of it is, and the expense should be recouped as much as possible in the charges. Some of it requires nothing more than a re-thinking of the way seniors live (and in some cases, still work) as the Boomers enter their communities. But all of it is non-negotiable. An unprecedented culture change is upon the industry. Even with more Boomers staying in their homes longer, the sheer numbers indicate a huge influx into senior living in the next two decades. If you provide assisted living or skilled nursing, get ready. Your turn is coming; Senior housing is getting ready to explode—it will be either a chance to experience phenomenal growth, or the missed opportunity of the century.

Plan now for success and reap the rewards in the decades to come. Louise Johnson, MBA, is passionate about helping seniors remain engaged and productive. A Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, she has over 15 years working in various capacities in the senior industry in Phoenix, Arizona. You can contact Louise directly at: [email protected]