Where and How We Might Live
Being in the middle of life (actuarially) is a rich, extended moment of time. There has been enough treading through adulthood that I have lived through milestones of my parents, giving me a richer understanding of them as people and humans. I remember, when I turned 26, realizing that I was the age of my mother when she had her first child. It hit me again when I turned 37 and thought of my mother at that age, when she and my father separated. At that point I was living in Moscow, working hard, playing hard…I could not imagine being saddled with three miserable kids and a divorce at that age.
Now my enlightened understanding of life is looking forward and not only contemplating the well-being of older adults today – in their homes or in retirement or assisted living communities – but also stepping out of the abstract frame and thinking quite concretely about what aging will look like for me and my friends. Having been the beneficiaries of access to great design in the past couple of decades – Apple products, Ikea, fleece for all – I cannot imagine people like me, raised in the 70s and 80s, settling for elephant-colored canes, or walkers with tennis balls attached. Same for senior living. The idea of mini-communes with fun, educated, young people employed to help and schlep us around, chefs to cook for us….that is what I’m thinking about…But until I figure out how to make that happen for me and my husband and our friends, I am just watching the scenery.
I have a background in real estate development and have loved reading the newsletter from Senior Housing News. While a lot of the articles are about issues like occupancy and how senior living as an asset class is performing, there are great pieces about trends in senior housing. While I am not yet ready to envision my-own-future-self in these communities or concepts, I am happy to report that many of them are moving more towards concepts that resonate with younger baby boomers. I was particularly giggly when I saw this article about a camp for 80+-ers at Burning Man last year. The point of that and other articles from Senior Housing News is that senior living operators will need to start accommodating the interests, hobbies, culinary desires and demands of a youthful-self-regarding baby boomer wave.
Other concepts that prove this trend include a Florida-based, “over-55, active adult community” with Jimmy Buffet / Margaritaville themes and concepts, part-owned by Buffet’s Margaritaville Holdings. “Margaritaville Concepts” include band shells, a beachfront club and themes from the Margaritaville restaurants in the dining facilities. I will certainly keep watching this space. This may be the way we shake out: choosing living concepts according to interests. Maybe there will be a Dungeons and Dragons concept, a Star Trek-themed community? Or maybe the novelty is just what people need to be able to move, with some self-referential irony, into what they previous feared as being fusty? Watch this space! I plan to ponder other out-of-the box senior living concepts.