FAMILY

More Baby Boomers May Be Choosing to Age in Communities — Here’s Why

A new breed of living community is emerging as seniors want to stay active, creative, and connected.

Have you heard of Priya Senior Living? Located in Fremont, California, the senior living property caters to aging residents looking to enjoy the culture of India. It’s sold out.

How about Vi at Palo Alto? This luxury senior property welcomes residents who want to live with others who have had a rich academic and business life while also pursuing continuing education (by way of a partnership with Stanford University). It’s also sold out. In fact, the waitlist for one of their 600 beds is almost two years!

So, what do these, and other so-called “affinity” properties, have in common? In large part, community — an essential need we humans have at every age.

UCLA psychology, psychiatry, and biobehavioral scientist Matthew Liebermanelaborates: “Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion…It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.” His premise — one backed up by scienceTrusted Source — is that we need community.

For older adults, sometimes that means joining a new community.

A 2011 report published by AARP claimed that almost 90 percent of people older than 65 want to stay in their home as long as possible. But aging in place (or at home) can be contrary to the human need for connection and community.

The vast variability of health in aging, the shrinking community as one grows older, and the need for independence with some support, can make healthy aging difficult at home. And senior living communities have come a long way from the unappealing idea of a “nursing home.”

As a result, more and more baby boomers are moving into these communities at earlier ages. They’re looking for a better aging experience after watching what happened to their own parents.


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Gen B wants a richer experience than ‘home’

More AARP data also points out: “Among younger Boomers aged 50 to 64, 71 percent want to age in place.” Meaning, the trend for seniors wanting to stay home is decreasing.

These younger boomers — whom I like to call Gen B — have watched their parents age, causing them to reconsider staying home. They’re seeking a new experience in a better type of community.

In fact, LeadingAge (in partnership with NORC) surveyed 1,200 baby boomers, and 40 percent answered they’d want to live somewhere other than their current home or apartment if they had a physical disability that required them to need help with daily activities. Forty-two percent said they’d want to live somewhere else if they had Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Many senior living providers are starting to realize this. From independent living and assisted living to memory care communities and care homes, senior living is being driven by the user experience of residents.

Gen B’s focus on leading active, healthy lives is increasingly reflected in the experiences available in modern senior living communities like Priya and Vi at Palo Alto.

What does this mean? Gen B-ers are looking for experiences that may not be available at home, including:

  • the opportunity for friendship and new love
  • chef-prepared meals that remove the burden of cooking
  • the socialization that comes with mealtime
  • greater independence in a supportive environment
  • participation in meaningful activities each day
  • opportunities to volunteer
  • continued learning
  • support for physical and mental well-being
  • transportation that keeps them involved in local-area activities

Aging at home vs. in a community

The decision to age at home can work for many — especially those who are physically independent — but it’s not ideal for everyone.

Aging at home can provide comfort and security, but it also includes additional responsibilities and physical burdens, like home maintenance, preparing meals, and other errands.

And while the on-demand economy can offer some solutions, brief interactions with delivery people, repairmen, or technicians may only enhance feelings of isolation.

In contrast, there are ways in which a community can help a person thrive. We all have such different needs. But keeping in mind that one of the needs we have in common is the need to connect with others, communities can offer companionship and engagement on a different level.

The ideal aging experience should focus on individual needs and community. It should bring together services and amenities that enable healthy aging, along with a strong sense of community that enables daily activities, meaningful relationships, and engagement.

Gen B seems to be wondering whether they can find all that at home.


Arthur Bretschnedier is a third-generation senior housing operator. After selling his family’s senior housing company, he held two financial analyst roles in real estate and finance companies. He then founded a consulting firm, assisting real estate developers and other financial institutions in entering the senior housing market. While pursuing his MBA at Berkeley-Haas, he created Seniorly to solve a problem he noticed while running his family’s business. Arthur is a native San Franciscan, and when he isn’t working, he is usually at Crissy Field with his wife, two boys, and their Jack Russell terrier and goldendoodle.

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