You may have heard the adage that with two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk. With this in mind, I love hearing from our followers and users of MyLifeSite.net and learning about your thoughts on senior living-related issues. Indeed, your thoughts, ideas, and opinions inform almost all the work we do here at myLifeSite.
To this end, I recently conducted a quick one-question survey of our users. In it, I asked respondents to choose the number one reason that might cause them to delay a move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community) or other retirement community right now. I was pleased that we received over 520 replies, making it a good sample size. These were the results:
- 40.5 percent: Not ready yet
- 22.4 percent: Coronavirus/COVID-19
- 14.3 percent: Uncertainty about the effect on my finances
- 9.1 percent: Don’t want to leave my home
- 5.6 percent: Putting off dealing with all of my “stuff”
- 4.4 percent: Don’t want to give up square footage
- 3.4 percent: Confused about the various options and details
One respondent’s perspective
“Not ready yet,” could of course mean a number of things, depending on the respondent’s perspective. Maybe they aren’t sure if an age-restricted CCRC or other senior living community is the right fit for them. Maybe they haven’t decided which community or location they prefer. Or more likely, they don’t feel like they are “old enough” yet.
I find that this is a common sentiment among those who are researching and considering a CCRC. In fact, in response to our survey, I received an email from a follower of ours who shared her personal thoughts on a related topic:
“[My reason for delaying a decision] is the boomer generation gap. From visits to various communities, it looks as though most residents are in their 80s and early 90s. Their tastes, outlook on life, formative experiences and cultural touchstones are likely to be quite different from boomers. At 72, I would feel like I was living with my parents and the Silent Generation until more boomers became residents. I hear that the average age of entry is about 80, but that seems too long to wait.”
More than an age difference
As this survey respondent astutely went on to note, “The generation gap is real,” and I don’t entirely disagree with her. While there are of course exceptions to every rule, there are often generational divides — beyond just age — between someone who is in their 90s and someone in their 70s. Yet, the survey respondent felt that age 80 was too late for her. I took this to mean that she realizes that waiting until the age of many current residents is too long to wait, but she fears the potential generational differences by moving in sooner. For some, maybe “I’m not ready yet” is more about the generation gap, either real or perceived.
Members of the “Silent Generation,” for example, were born between 1925 and 1946. They came of age during The Great Depression and World War II. For many members of the Silent Generation, it’s hard to understate the life-altering impact those two events had on their formative years. As a result, this generation is generally thought of as hard-working and loyal, respectful of authority, and having a strong sense of tradition.
Contrast that to the so-called “Baby Boomer Generation,” who are often the children of the Silent Generation. Baby boomers are defined broadly as people born post-World War II, between 1946 and 1964. The baby boomers have long been known for their sense of independence, competitiveness, resourcefulness, and sometimes questioning authority.
Baby boomers’ view of aging and retirement
As they reach the “traditional” retirement years of their late 60s, baby boomers also are becoming known for their youthful view of themselves. I often hear people in their 60s and 70s say they still feel great, physically and mentally. They say they don’t feel “old.” (Of course, this begs the question of how we define “old,” but that’s a topic for another day.)
And in many cases, they aren’t acting like what we may stereotypically think of as “old.” Some baby boomers are buying motorcycles for cross-country trips, for example. Of course, this feeling of youthfulness held by many baby boomers is a good thing. I hope I will have that same zest for life when I reach my 70s!
And this is not to say that people in the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomer Generation are “incompatible” as friends and neighbors. Far from it. But as Sarah points out, the age difference likely does mean they have had very different experiences in life, and may even have a different perspective on aging.
But herein lies the rub: Many baby boomers don’t view themselves as “old,” so they question why they would move to a retirement community where an older generation lives.
What is “old enough”?
As I’ve written about before, there is a certain percentage of people who will probably never feel like they are “old enough” for a CCRC or other type of retirement community. In fact, I’ve heard people well into their eighties say this. For some people, being around other “old people” makes them feel old themselves.
I’ve always thought this was an interesting view and almost self-discriminating, but on some level, I do understand. I suppose some older adults feel they need to be around younger people to maintain their own youthful vigor. Yet, based on the spunk and energy I’ve witnessed among many residents at CCRCs, this certainly isn’t true for everyone.
Furthermore, as I have learned from talking with hundreds of residents at different CCRCs across the country, the fact remains that there are a variety of benefits to making a CCRC move sooner rather than later — when you are younger rather than older. In fact, many residents I talk with tell me they wish they had made the move sooner.
Some of these benefits may not become apparent to the senior until after they actually make the move, but in short, moving to a CCRC at a younger age:
- Allows you to take full advantage of the various programs and activities available
- Gives you time to build meaningful relationships
- Can increase your overall well-being with an enhanced focus on all aspects of wellness
- Reduces anxiety of taking care of the house and all your “stuff”
- Reduces concerns about being healthy enough to qualify for entry
- In general, can make the CCRC transition easier
The CCRC “not ready yet” marketing conundrum
So, how does someone navigate between a desire to enjoy the benefits above without feeling like they are launching themselves into a generation gap? And how will CCRCs adjust their marketing and “brand” to prove their value proposition to a target market that doesn’t view themselves as “ready yet” for a CCRC’s “product”?
It is not all about the amenities and views. I often say that a retirement community is much more than a place to live; it is a community of people. It seems somewhat ironic that there is an increasing desire in our society for intergenerational living, but it doesn’t seem to apply to different generations among the oldest members of society. Could CCRCs and other retirement communities attract more residents by embracing the ways that two generations come together for mutual benefit? I look forward to finding out in the years to come!