Put Your Assumptions About Aging Aside With Boomers
The first step when considering developing a new community geared toward boomers and empty nesters is to leave some of your assumptions about aging at the door.
Previous generations were more linear and easier to understand — consequently, their expectations were easier to identify and address.
Mid-lifers, retirees and “the elderly” were lumped into a homogenous demographic that constituted the market for retirement housing. Accordingly, communities were typically designed as secure havens from which residents seldom ventured.
In the last few years, however, the boomer generation has been dispelling those hoary myths about retirement with a vengeance. And today, savvy developers are transitioning from “senior housing” to active adult, age-restricted and lifestyle communities that cater to a generation whose attitudes, lifestyles and sheer numbers command a whole new way of thinking about “retirement” housing.
This generation’s profile is not linear and cannot be stereotyped. That diversity makes it challenging to reach out to them as a group.
Still, some clear trends are emerging:
- Many boomers in their 50s and 60s are “younger” than previous generations.
We’re always hearing that 50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50, etc. These folks are not ready to fade into the sunset. Rather, they typically have the will and the wherewithal to keep them optimally fit, physically and mentally.
They seek personal growth. Their role models include such boomer icons as Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Diane Keaton and Dave Letterman, who at 59 is the father of a toddler.
- If and when boomers relocate, many expect their new homes to come with luxurious rather than basic features and amenities — high ceilings, expansive windows, well-appointed kitchens, high-end master baths, outdoor patios or decks and fitness facilities that go beyond a weight machine and two treadmills. Livability is a key buzz word.
- Boomers are turning conventional notions of retirement on its head. Many continue to enjoy productive work and its challenges, and they embrace new technology.
Many will be looking for home offices, along with Cat 5 cabling in all the major rooms for home computer and entertainment networking.
Clubhouses with conference rooms, coffee lounges with a Starbucks-like ambiance and mail services can all be hot buttons for the working boomer, along with maintenance services.
- Boomers are diverse.
Those in their 40s may be juggling careers and parenting; those in their 60s are likely to be empty nesters and grandparents. Some in their 50s will shy away from age-restricted communities, fearing that they’ll be pegged as “seniors” before their time — they’re more likely to gravitate to lifestyle housing.
Bottom line? Give boomers housing choices as diverse as they are.
Marketing DOs and DON’Ts
Boomers are a huge market. As a group they have more than $900 billion in annual income and own the most homes. They are largely sophisticated, discerning and financially secure. They will explore housing options on their terms and timetable.
In your marketing:
- Don’t talk down to them.
- Do exceed their expectations with your quality product and presentation.
- Don’t annoy them with incessant phone calls or high-pressure tactics.
- Do follow up with a thanks-for-your-interest mailing after a visit to your sales center or a brunch tour, and put them on your community newsletter mailing list.
In other words, do build the relationship.
New and exciting, choice, livability and amenities — press those hot buttons and you’ll win the boomer’s home-buying heart.
Janis Ehlers, CAASH, is the founder and president of The Ehlers Group, Inc., a marketing and communications company with offices in Florida and Virginia that specializes in real estate development and active adult communities throughout the country. A Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH) designee, she is also the author of “Marketing Seniors Housing." For more information, e-mail Ehlers, call her at 954-726-9228, or visit The Ehlers Group Web site.
Find Out What the 55+ Market Wants
“Boomers on the Horizon: Housing Preferences of the 55+ Market,” available through BuilderBooks.com, can help you better build and market homes to this age group.
Capitalize on the niches, needs and opportunities of this rapidly growing market by learning their preferences.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
Reach Boomers Where They Live
The new Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH) designation gives housing professionals serving the rapidly burgeoning 50+ market the essential knowledge, tools and skills that will help them succeed — from conducting initial research to design considerations and features to serving the customer.
Find upcoming CAASH classes here.
For more information, call the Professional Designation Help Line at 800-368-5242 x8154, or e-mail CAASHinfo@nahb.com.