New Trends in CCRCs


CCRCs are currently in the throes of a generational change.  The oldest Boomers begin turning 71 in a few weeks and there are focus groups, skull sessions, and a lot of fretting about how to attract them to retirement communities.

The Greatest Generation still largely populates CCRCs.  They were largely content with smaller residences and with activities like woodshop, craft rooms and music from their generation.  But we Boomers grew up on TV, are rockers at heart, and invented the McMansion.  No small, no Mrs. Smith’s piano recitals, forget about whittling. Also Mrs. Boomer is almost as likely to have had a professional career as Mr. Boomer.

Here in Topeka, Brewster Place is out in front of a bold new trend sometimes dubbed “CCRC’s without walls”.  Many of us like the CCRC idea from the guaranteed future care perspective—we just don’t want to live there.  Along comes LiveWell, an idea where we pay a buy in (for prepaid medical costs) and a monthly fee, but we stay put in our own home.  Since we don't occupy one of their residences, the buy in is a great deal less. Should we need home care, or have to move to assisted living or skilled care, it is all prepaid and they will take care of us.  If we want to go to the campus to participate in stuff we can since we count as non-resident members, but we don’t much.  Our future health needs are covered and paid for. 

CCRC’s are also struggling with their category name.  Seems “Continuing Care” implies, to many, that the place is old people in hospital beds or rocking chairs on the porch.  Most CCRCs of course have loads of activities, trips, programs, and are very vital places.  To help capture this the category now prefers being called a Life Plan Community.  

This I suppose suggests the role of choice.  The facility says we’ll throw out a huge menu of social, physical and cultural activities and you choose.  The focus is on the resident as the agent of planning, not on the facility as the provider of “care”.  

I will probably always say CCRC, and that title has by no means gone away.  To attract Boomers there seem to be some requirements.  A pool, indoor if possible, and good fitness facilities are a must.  Most CCRC’s are adding “bistros” as drop in spots between scheduled meal times or in place of meals.  Boomers don’t want to be regimented is the guiding principle.

Some facilities are tempting Boomers with gourmet restaurant type meals.  Forget the meat loaf and chicken casseroles.  More and better choices on the menus, and some CCRCs are even adding wine and spirits. 

The other trinket dangled at Boomers is more modern residences.  We’ve been in a lot of CCRCs and they are nice and all, but the gang on HGTV would gag on the Formica counters and the compartmentalized rooms and popcorn ceilings.  Some CCRCS are starting from scratch if they can to build places that tick the HGTV boxes:  often much more square feet, generous closets, open floor plans, granite and stainless steel, wood floors in and carpets out. 

Again Brewster Place is out front with housing they call Cottonwood Villas.  The biggest run around 1850 square feet and would make HGTV denizens smile.  They are also more vertical, with enclosed parking down underneath and elevators up to the residence floors. 

Is this enough to catch the eye of Boomers?  Given that the median Boomer has less than $50k saved for retirement, and the richest can have nurses and servants and all while staying in their home, the market is a narrow slice in between.  And all these new amenities cost more than the old 1950s-looking 2 bedroom apartment. 

Since a great many Boomers in the financial target group probably work out some, and do the health stuff, they likely will take a while to filter into the CCRCs.  Residents have typically come when mobility declines or other conditions make it hard to manage the home anymore.  But again Boomers in the target group probably have, as we do, handyman services, house cleaners, lawn maintenance people, and increasingly one can get groceries, full meals and medications delivered to the home.  Home care medical services will provide a wide range of treatment procedures that once required skilled care facilities.

So CCRC or LPC, it seems to me an uphill battle. It’s our plan to stay put as long as we can reasonably navigate our home.  Since we are in LiveWell, the facility gets money from us anyway.  It think we will see even more changes in retirement communities as time goes by.  We Boomers are hard to please.


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