Markets driven by the consumerism of the baby boom generation are changing senior living, and there are more options available than ever before. Medical and technological advancements and a shift to a more customized, individual lifestyle preference are leading the way for seniors to age more securely and comfortably. Senior communities are looking less like institutions and more like homes. Infusing technology with medical support in assisting seniors is a giant step forward in reshaping the way people provide care and when necessary intervention.
As life expectancy for seniors continues to increase they are putting off retirement, some out of financial necessity but others out of a desire for daily engagement in something socially and mentally stimulating as well as productive. Life expectancy based on age reached is a driving force behind this trend as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) graphic shows below. Senior boomers are showing interest in taking care of themselves and not being regarded as patients. They are choosing to be fully integrated into their wellness plan and taking more responsibility than ever for healthier choices. Technology through the use of smartwatches is providing the ability to self-monitor glucose levels, heart rates, fitness levels, sleeping patterns, and more.
These seniors, who are choosing to stay vital and active, are also changing their diets to a more plant-based, organic farm-to-table approach. The largest US Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is Kaiser Permanente, and its recommendation is for seniors to switch to a primarily plant-based diet, in part to help ward off chronic conditions including inflammation. Seniors in shared living spaces now request information about chefs and how the foods are sourced and prepared - much as they would in a grocery store - opting for healthier foods and healthy meal preparation techniques.
Housing trends are showing that when a senior opts out of independent living or their multigenerational home, the settings tend to be smaller and non-institutional. The floor plans mimic those of single-family residences, although with a lot more bedrooms. This senior demographic is enticing markets to create service options and interactive opportunities on and off living sites in response to a trend called "Gray Divorce." The divorce rate among those 50 and older has nearly doubled in the past 25 years, and many of these divorcees are not remarrying. A social opportunity to connect with others for these previously married seniors is critical to their overall happiness and health.
Now more than ever seniors are participating in social media platforms which allow for transparency with regards to living environments and health care. Online reviews of doctors, technicians and their office practices and senior retirement communities/facilities are subjected to more scrutiny than ever. Seniors realize the power they have by sheer numbers, magnifying their voice, to keep their priorities and needs front and center. Online forums provide discussion groups as to how other seniors are coping with aging, medical conditions or perhaps discussing the pros and cons of specific surgeries. Social media is also keeping this baby boomer generation from becoming isolated from more distant family members and friends. Video chat applications like Skype are becoming the norm as parents, grandparents, and friends seek to stay connected more frequently and without the hassle and expense of travel.
As baby boomers become the larger percentage of the retired population, they will continue to impact senior living trends based on the market share they represent. Demands for personalization will continue as these seniors have high expectations as consumers and historically are accustomed to having their expectations met. Medical treatments are always improving, housing is changing, and technology is simplifying the many hurdles encountered while aging. Being proactive early on will allow you to integrate your financial position with your aspirations of a fulfilled senior life.