Posted in on January 27, 2016

10 Tips to Make Your 55-Plus or Senior Living Community Pop

Insights from the 2016 International Builders Show

Baby Boomers and seniors are seeking a new lifestyle, not just a new home in a new community. Whether they plan to downsize, upsize or rightsize, at the end of the day what they are really seeking is a new home and new community which enhances their lives.

Recently I spoke at the International Builders Show. Conversations with attendees and attending others’ sessions reinforced the idea that adults aged 55 or better want out of their current homes where they have lived for 10, 20, 30 years or more. But what do they want to get into?

You don’t need to watch more than one day of HGTV to understand that everyone wants open concept, but these buyers also want lower-maintenance homes (inside and out thank-you) with greater function. More often than not 55-plus homebuyers stay relatively close to their current neighborhood but proximity to conveniences also is of prime importance.

Below are 10 tips from the 2016 International Builders Show for builders, developers and owners of 55-plus and senior living communities who want to stay on top and ahead of buying trends.

The Community

1. Walking is the #1 activity of boomers and seniors. Leverage walking paths to take advantage of your site’s views and natural amenities. Make sure they are wide enough for at least two, preferably three, people to walk side by side.

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects a 10’ wide path can be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists; 6’- 8’  is good for pedestrians only. Also consider the addition of occasional seating areas and lighting to increase safety.

The Juice Bar at North Hill senior living (Needham, MA)

The Juice Bar at North Hill senior living (Needham, MA)

2. Fitness centers are still desirable (of course I’ll use it!) but in designing these spaces think of the overall experience it can offer your residents – it’s more than just about the equipment and free weights.

Enhance the lifestyle aspect of this amenity by adding a juice bar and seating so people can gather and chat after their workout or class. Then bring in a “juicemaster” to teach residents and prospects new recipes for healthy smoothies – an unusual and targeted marketing event.

3. Biking is also popular, both for pleasure and exercise. Make it safe for your boomer and senior residents by designating “bike lanes” on your roadways.

To encourage biking don’t forget to add bike racks at your clubhouse and other community amenities. Take advantage of bike paths outside of your community by linking to them if possible.

4. Pet Love! Boomers and seniors love their pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that over $60 billion dollars were spent on pets in the USA last year. Include a dog park in your open space plan.

Better still, include pets in your marketing. A review of the search logs on several client sites showed “pets” were one of the top topics of interest (after “costs” and “fees”) – your website and collateral should make clear that both Fido and his owner are welcome in your community.

The Homes

5. Pay attention to the “lifestyle triangle” of the kitchen, great room and casual dining as this is where baby boomers and seniors entertain friends and family. Make it open to make the space feel larger, keep people connected and conversations flowing.

6. Add storage wherever possible. How about a 4- 6″ deep “closet” alongside the refrigerator for brooms and cleaning supplies? Or consider a pullout “cabinet” that holds cans perfectly. Narrow spaces can also fit wine racks, cutting boards and oversized platters.

Don’t forget to have your sales counselors demonstrate these bonus storage areas to your prospects so they aren’t missed.

7. Make the owner’s primary entry a drop zone for keys, mail, boots and jackets. A small kitchen cabinet can even become a charging/shredding station. Give these mature buyers conveniences and functions they don’t have in their current home. And be sure to point out the benefits in your marketing.

8. Indoor/Outdoor connections increase perceived square footage. Outdoor living space is in high demand, and the patios of yesterday just don’t cut it.

Make this space more private and your boomer and senior homebuyers won’t worry as much about the small lots. Open as many rooms as possible to the home’s outdoor living area. Include a floor plan with a side courtyard for variety in your offering. To deliver the desired privacy, the neighboring house should have no windows overlooking the courtyard. If it does, make an attractive privacy screen standard.

9. A first floor master suite is a must of course but, in the real world, partners with different sleeping schedules or who snore (nearly half the population) would love an extra room as part of the master suite. Promote this smaller room as flex space; a comfy daybed conveys second sleeping space as well as a quiet retreat.

10. More Pet Love! Show off pet-friendly features buyers can add to their home. Here was one that caught my eye at the International Builders’ Show — a kitchen pet center:

Kitchen pet center seen at the 2016 International Builders Show

A definite memory point!


Did you attend IBS? We’d love to share any takeaways you may have gained – be sure to add to the comment section.

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