Recently, Sara Kyle stumbled across a picture of a new community of active adults over 55 in Florida, and it piqued her interest.

Specifically, Kyle – former director of resident experience for Holiday Retirement and founder and director of LE3 Solutions, a company specializing in senior wellness programs – wanted to know more about the consumer targeted by the image. .

Kyle shared the image with his mother, who still lives on her own and independently, for her opinion. Her mother pointed out the lack of common space and was not impressed with amenities such as a swimming pool.

“She considered the design to be nice, but it didn’t have the functionality to keep her independent,” Kyle told Senior Housing News.

His mother’s reaction fueled Kyle’s belief that developers and investors in the growing active adult rental segment should pay more attention to the age range and characteristics of older people moving into. these communities, a sentiment shared by other aging experts.

This is mainly because, while buildings for active adults are limited to people aged 55 and over, their actual censuses tend to be around 20 years older, with no signs of decreasing, as more and more babies. -boomers seek to live independently for longer periods of time until a move to a senior citizen’s residence is required. .

Active adult operators interviewed by SHN for this article revealed that people between the ages of 70 and 80 make up the majority of residents in their buildings.

But investors and developers can approach the generation as a single group, rather than the fluid and diverse cohort that it is.

Because active adult rental communities are still a relatively new type of product, the model may be refined as more is learned about who is attracted to the product, the founder told SHN. and Managing Partner of Avenida Partners, Robert May.

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“It’s a very diverse population, with different interests. Each of us who are developers must choose the niche within this population, ”he said.

Not a monolith

the Housing for the Elderly Act 1995 (HOPA) grants developers the right to restrict housing if they operate it as a “55+” community. But age isn’t the overriding factor in seniors’ decisions to move to an active adult community, and Kyle isn’t alone in wondering who active adult rental communities are designed and targeted for.

Joseph Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, published an April post on LinkedIn, claiming that investors view baby boomers as a monolithic bunch – and claiming that the so-called “active adult” might not even exist.

“Despite their compelling numbers, are the young baby boomers and the older generation X a story of more consumers seeking an active adult life as we know it today, or a comparable myth in pursuit of unicorns? ” he wrote. “There is a general consensus about what a unicorn looks like, less about what an active adult is.”

In his article, Coughlin postulates that investors and analysts may be constrained by the large number of baby boomers expected to retire over the next 20 years, but they don’t seriously think about what they want to see in a future. retirement community, and are instead casting a wide net. He’s skeptical about whether young baby boomers and Generation X seniors want to live in today’s active adult communities.

Active adult developers, on the other hand, insist they take a long-term view of the product and predict that it will adapt to the consumer as more is learned about who flock to it. him.

Today, active adult communities are essentially a light of independent living, said Frankie Pane, President and CEO of Essex Communities. The Omaha, Nebraska-based owner and operator’s portfolio includes 12 communities in six states, with two more in development, and he specializes in leasing active adults, enabling the company to ” tap the demand for middle-market senior housing.

Pane calls the term “active adult” a marketing buzzword, and Essex does not use the term in its sales and marketing strategy or materials. The company uses “working life 55 and over” to define its communities to potential tenants.

“For the consumer, this needs to be better defined, eventually,” he said.

This definition may depend on whether these communities primarily serve older or younger baby boomers.

Older baby boomers born between the mid-1940s and early 1950s probably have more in common with the younger wave of the silent generation, while the younger baby boomers born in the early 1960s are more likely to share interests with the older segment of Gen X, Coughlin argued.

These differences in formative experiences extend to education, work history, and how they socialize. Therefore, an older baby boomer’s perspective on what retirement looks like may differ from that of a younger baby boomer. Young baby boomers may still want to work, even after reducing their home environment.

In addition, the patterns of socialization of baby boomers differ between cohorts. Older baby boomers may attend church more often or be members of civic organizations and clubs such as Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis.

But membership in these organizations is on the decline. Membership of faith-based organizations, in particular, fell to 47% – the first time it fell below 50% in the United States and a drop of 23% from 1999.

A bell curve

As companies like Avenida and Essex build active adult portfolios, more and more evidence is emerging as to who the consumer is.

While HOPA allows developers to develop and operate communities with age restrictions, people in their mid-fifties don’t flock to it. In fact, seniors in their mid-60s seem to be the demographic target of active adult communities.

The average age of an Avenida resident is 74, 65% of its total resident population is between 74 and 84, and less than 9% is under 65, May told SHN.

Avenida is focusing more on attracting tenants who will stay in a building for an extended period of time and is developing relationships with market experts, including other senior housing providers, to identify potential tenants who will be suitable. ideally for living in an Avenida property, compared to those who will need it. highest acuity care. It also allows the provider to sort out tenants who still wish to live independently, but in a multigenerational or intergenerational framework.

A closer look at Avenida’s resident population reveals other trends. About 70% of the provider’s total resident population are single or divorced women, or widows. Married couples represent 25% of the resident population of Avenida.

This creates opportunities to develop new friendships which can have a positive impact on the length of stay.

“It’s a very organic and fluid situation that ends up being driven by the residents,” he said.

The average age of residents of Essex apartment buildings is even higher: 78 when moving in and 80 when stabilizing a community, Pane said.

As with Avenida, he estimates that less than 5% of the total resident population of Essex is under 65, and an equal percentage are over 90. And the company works with local groups, including seniors’ centers, as it enters new markets to identify key stakeholders who serve as advocates and help identify demand.

“The meat and potatoes in our census are between 70% and 80%,” he said.

At Inspire Coastal Grand, a 55-year-old and more recently opened community of active adults in Myrtle Beach, SC operated by Liberty Senior Living, the average age of residents is 71, said Area Manager Christy. Chestnut at SHN. This is the first active adult community for the company and marks the launch of a new brand for the operator based in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The age range at Inspire Coastal Grand varies, with residents as young as 58 and 92, but they share one common trait: most residents who moved into the community lived within a five to seven mile radius, and seek a transition from their former family environment. Some want the Inspire Coastal Grand to be their last home, while others recognize that they may need to move to an assisted living facility at a later date.

Neither May nor Pane see the average age of active adult renters changing significantly anytime soon. Younger seniors want to live independently for as long as they can, and many will likely consider moving to senior housing when it becomes necessary, and will move with several co-morbidities in place that require monitoring. from clinicians to slow the rate of decline. .

As long as they remain active on their own, they will not consider moving to age-restricted communities at a younger age. Kyle’s mom still has an active and rewarding lifestyle with no social gathering.

“Until you stop being busy you don’t think you need to live together,” Kyle said.

She believes active adult gamers need to do a better job of separating the baby boomer generation into the distinct cohorts that they are. Otherwise, current developmental strategies will continue to dictate where and how active adult development occurs.

“There has to be a really compelling story to get them moving,” she said. “It is not the dwelling; this is the experience they are going to live.



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