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Today, and for at least the next decade, members of the huge “Baby Boom” generation will be reaching retirement age and making decisions about the next steps in their life journey. If their history is any predictor of the future, there is one thing that senior living leaders can safely count on – Change!

As they’ve done in virtually every other stage of life they have passed through, the Baby Boomers will set their own course and create change in the world around them. Their numbers alone will demand change and move the markets that serve them, be it automobiles, clothing, personal security systems, medical devices, technologies, hospitality and entertainment services, or housing.

What Business Will You Be In?

To paraphrase Theodore Levitt’s famous quote from his iconic, “Marketing Myopia,” “What business are you really in? Are you in the railroad business or the transportation business?” Today, senior living leaders should ask themselves a similar question: Are we in the senior housing business or the senior lifestyle industry.

Some percentage of Boomers could opt for the more traditional, residential living continuum, featuring independent living, assisted living, etc., but it is expected that more Boomers will expect the market to follow them—just as they are prone to do. Thus, their attitudes about the future might well be summarized by the statement, “I want to stay in my own home, in my own neighborhood, and I’m going to do business with whatever service providers can enable me to do just that, for as long as possible.”

Report: Boomers See a Future “Unrestrained by Planned Retirement Communities”

Recently, a Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate study on retirement found that Baby Boomers express “feelings of optimism about living an independent, active lifestyle; a lifestyle unrestrained by planned retirement communities and instead bolstered by living out their passions.” Therefore, to stay ahead of the curve in what will be a high-stakes future, senior living leaders should begin thinking about what that future might look like and what role they will play in it.

Senior Living 2.0: Innovative Thinking Will Be Rewarded

Faith OttPresident & Executive Consultant for Sage Age Strategies, recently stated in a national interview with Senior Housing Forum, “Innovative programming is needed throughout the entire senior care continuum. Understanding that cost is always an issue that must be considered and providers need to be aware that failing to invest in innovation can be a much more expensive mistake, as we’ve seen in many other industries. I think our industry needs to be doing a better job of serving people in their homes, not just on our campuses. We need to recognize that there are an increasing number of people that will choose to stay at home, or who will need to stay at home, because they simply do not have the resources to move into a community.”

“Today, there is a broader, and growing, untapped market of people living in their homes who provide a unique opportunity for additional programs and services. The trend for more people to stay in their homes means that campus-based senior housing and care providers will need to find ways to extend their services beyond their own walls and reach out to those in living in the broader community. Many forward-thinking senior housing providers are already focused on developing a variety of interesting and independence-promoting services, from the typical in-home care and support to innovative services such as dog walking, in home modification services, inside and outside home repair and upkeep, as well as one-on-one computer tutoring and high quality, customized meal delivery. There is also a focus of developing wellness and education programs out in the community and building strong affiliations with health clubs, senior centers, colleges and universities.”

“The flip side of this ‘outbound’ strategy is to offer at-home seniors a variety of popular, community-based services. For example, a percentage of at-home seniors might well be interested in paying for meal privileges at your community. Wellness Center programs and social activities might also be marketable services for the at-home segment. In addition to generating revenue, these ‘inbound’ services also provide senior adults with an ideal introduction to life in your community and could eventually result in an additional source of move-ins.”

“Thinking out of the box and off campuses will be essential for both reaching our seniors who will never live in a senior housing community, and building solid relationships with those who may someday decide to make a move. In either case, it just makes good strategic business sense for today’s campus-based senior living providers to explore services that connect with their surrounding communities.”

Dare to Look beyond Your Present Comfort Zone

Faith adds, “Sometimes, it can be difficult for leaders to think outside of their current paradigm, especially if they’ve been successful in that space. However, past success does not guarantee future success. The American auto industry is just one of many examples. Those leaders who have the knowledge and foresight – and use it to their maximum advantage by identifying new opportunities and riding the wave of change – will be in the best position to create a successful future for themselves.”

Leading senior living growth organizations, such as Sage Age Strategies, offer a useful source of thought leadership, trend identification and expertise that enable senior living communities to move out of their comfort zones in order to prepare for what might be a very different future.

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