This is Not Your Father’s Old Folks’ Home!

In 1988, Oldsmobile came out with the slogan, This is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.

We could say the same today, only Baby Boomers—a few decades older—are now looking for more horsepower in their retirement lifestyle.

Like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, modern retirement communities were conceived to meet the ambitions of Baby Boomers: a special group with a very different outlook on retirement than their counterparts from previous generations.

For about a decade, builders have been tuning up the retirement community to attract this unique demographic with an unrelenting zest for life.

When it comes to retirement living today, This is Not Your Father’s Old Folks’ Home.

Senior Living Reinvented

Seemingly overnight, modern communities were reinvented based on the tastes and preferences of Boomers, and for good reason. By 2050, the 65-plus age group will exceed 85 million, a more than 50 percent increase over the 2020 population.

By 2050, the 85-plus population will increase 177 percent over what it is today, or an estimated 18 million more 85-year-olds! In fact, industry luminaries have been referring to it as the “silver tsunami” for about a decade.

In anticipation of the tsunami, the people who build retirement communities set out to rewrite the narrative on aging, changing up their approach to everything from architecture to care to services, activities, and amenities.

Today, seniors choose from rent-based and lifecare communities, urban towers in city centers and sprawling campus-like communities, retirement “resorts” with luxury amenities and retirement communities without walls.

Retirement living has been reimagined and reinvented in too many ways to list, all to appeal to Boomer’s ambitions, desires and egos.

Life Expectancy and One Stop Shopping

Back in the 1980s, life expectancy was 74. Today, people who survive to age 65 can expect to live an average of 19 more years according to The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics 2020 report.

Enjoying the prospect of a longer lifespan, Boomers are changing the way we live out our retirement years, oftentimes not content to stay home and lead sedentary lifestyles.

These days, older adults living well into their 80s prefer to spend those “bonus” years keeping busy. Research shows they shun the increasingly dated image of old and frail, instead preferring to focus on health and wellness. They feelyounger than their actual age and tend to lead healthier lifestyles with a shared goal to become a better version of their selves and extend life as long as possible.

Media has coined the term, age confusion, which has to do with how we perceive ourselves as we age.

In response to “age confusion,” senior living communities shifted the perception of retirement communities away from old and frail and placed it squarely on wellness. Today, the standardization of wellness programming and state of the art wellness centers embody Boomers’ desire to stay healthy longer.

Yet the consequence of a longer lifespan is an increased prevalence of heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses. A longer life fuels demand for long-term care, so retirement communities expanded health care services, now offering different versions of telemedicine, electronic medical records, pharmacies, medical equipment, lab and X-ray services and supplemental health care services from therapies to visiting specialists—all conveniently located within the walls of the retirement community.

Ultimately, the goal is to enable seamless integration with the larger healthcare ecosystem to deliver more health care services at the community. A one-stop shopping experience if you will.

From Reward To Rebirth

Inevitably, a longer lifespan requires more funds, so seniors are also looking for communities that offer more value for the dollar, including rental-based communities that offer all-inclusive services and amenities as well as life enrichment programming that enable older adults to keep learning new skills and remain sharp.

While former generations looked at retirement as a reward for a lifetime of hard work, modern seniors view retirement as a rebirth of sorts. The old folk’s home in years past may have spent long, lazy afternoons in bingo competitions, but today, senior living communities emphasize diverse life-enriching activities such as woodworking, foreign language classes, ballroom dancing and tai chi.

Boomers won’t settle for anything less, so developers reinvented programming to suit varying abilities and interests, often employing a lifestyles director to keep residents engaged, entertained, and constantly growing.

Technology in Retirement

Like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, technology is a signature feature of modern retirement communities. Smart homes equipped with virtual assistants and safety features, digital health interventions and artificial intelligence that both predicts and prevents injuries are just a few ways technology will ultimately meet Boomer’s demands for healthy aging and longevity.

Technology and safety innovations in senior living communities were accelerated at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic. Cleaner air and surfaces, touchless technology and live Zoom sessions define the new normal in senior living.

According to Senior Living Foresight, customized, engaging technology will be considered the new norm in 2022.

Technology has been integrated across the board to support social and recreational activities, such as online community information platforms that offer the daily activities calendar and menus at the touch of a screen.

Top Amenities in Retirement

Retirement communities that encourage social interaction and activity as well as ample choice and variety in amenities and programming is not only the latest trend, but the expectation among Boomers.

In terms of luxury, urban offerings in senior living are setting the bar higher than ever with larger apartments, open floor plans with upscale finishes, integrated technology, concierge and hospitality services, walkable locations, and other luxury amenities.

According to New Home Source, top amenities that older adults want in retirement communities are:

  • Low maintenance all-inclusive living
  • Socialization opportunities, activities, and events
  • Health and wellness opportunities
  • High-quality accommodations and finishes (think quartz countertops)
  • Convenient locations connected to the greater community
  • Access to continuing education (classes and lectures)
  • Outdoor recreation and amenities (dog parks and community gardens)

In its 2021 State of Senior Living report, Perkins Eastman, a leading architect of senior living communities, found that modern seniors value flexibility and integration over all other features.

They suggested the pandemic was the impetus for a renewed affinity for nature and access to the outdoor world.

Baby Boomers’ collective pursuit of holistic wellness, whether indoors or out, is the primary motivation behind retirement communities today.

Out With the Old…

Boomers have figured out aging is inevitable, but quality of life is a choice. Old retirement communities that were designed around the sedentary idea that everyone is retiring to relax are going the way of the dinosaur. In a quest to remain healthy and young, more communities are building walking and biking paths, dog parks, community gardens and expansive outdoor recreational spaces.

For example, independent living at Sonata Senior Living in Florida incorporates many of the features that support this mindset, including rooftop terraces, outdoor fire pits and walking paths; off-leash dog parks, zero-entry resort-style heated pools, and fully-equipped wellness centers and spas; and chef-inspired, farm-to-table dining, bistro cafes, and pubs and bars, just to name a few.

In addition to building amenities that align with the modern senior’s lifestyle, Sonata emphasizes concierge and hospitality services that make retirement living easier. It’s signature program, At Your Service(SM), appeals to independent seniors who value maintenance-free, active retirement living underscored by service, variety and more choices.

Rethinking the aspirations of the modern senior, the planned community of Viera on the East Coast of Florida and Sonata Lake Mary just north of Orlando have been strategically built a stone’s throw away from vibrant shopping, entertainment and dining destinations to establish that essential connection to the greater community at large.

Learn more about the award-winning independent and assisted living at Sonata Senior Living and schedule a tour today.


Find out how rent-based independent living at Sonata provides financial freedom and more time to live life to the fullest!