By Michael Mendillo and Robert Misurell, Ph.D.
Times are changing for on-site managers and management companies that work with active adult communities. In fact, the features and strategies that define a successful age-restricted community—one that consistently attracts residents and improves in value—are evolving rapidly. The reason is simple: The Baby Boomers have arrived.
Independent, energetic and experimental—Boomers have changed the management equation, prompting some communities to re-examine how to remain relevant, appealing and adequately responsive to residents’ needs.
Who Are the Boomers?
Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are the healthiest, most well-educated and prosperous generation in the U.S. Numbering 77 million, they hold more than 70 percent of the total U.S. net worth. Census data shows that by 2030, the 65-plus population in the U.S. will double, reaching approximately 71.5 million. Clearly, a very large group of potential residents will be seeking active adult communities in the near future.
This group is not just larger, it’s more in tune with technology. According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of those age 50 to 60 are online, and 54 percent of those over 65 use the Internet. Overall, Boomers comprise between 36 and 43 percent of all Internet users.
Consider this as well: Many Boomers are choosing not to retire at age 65. In fact, according to Pew, the older workforce is growing more rapidly than its younger counterpart. AARP reports that 40 percent of Boomers plan to “work until they drop.”
The Boomers diversity and their engaged and informed way of looking for answers and making decisions is altering management in active adult communities.
Some management companies have created divisions or teams to customize management practices for active adult communities. While this recognizes that Boomers demand greater attention, the challenge is to make new management practices a day-to-day reality. To do this, management companies and managers should consider the following:
- Redefine “active.” Intellectual and spiritual activity is vital to Boomers, so seminars, discussion groups and educational offerings are important to them. By collecting residents’ feedback, managers can broaden a community’s scope and develop appropriate activities.
- Integrate health and wellness. Ongoing health and wellness programs are important to Boomer residents. Managers and boards should work together to implement programs for their communities.
- Revisit training programs. Every member of the management team for an active adult community should be trained to communicate with older adults; managers also should be aware of the value of listening skills and responsiveness. As a rule, Boomers are more informed and more demanding; they approach problems, including complaints and conflicts, with research and high expectations for action. Staff, especially top managers and lifestyle directors, should be required to participate in relevant training programs.
Full-service management is the order of the day for any community that wants to improve its value, regardless of age restrictions or resident demographics. For active adult communities in the Boomer era, “full service” has heightened importance, and managers that do not understand the new expectations risk falling behind.
Michael Mendillo is president of FirstService Residential’s MidAtlantic division and founder of the company’s Longevity and Lifestyle Programs. Robert Misurel, a family therapist and gerontology specialist, is director of Planning and Development for FirstService Residential’s Lifestyle Division.