Rick Banas, Vice President of Development and Positioning for Gardant Management Solutions

I am a “Baby Boomer,” the term used to describe the massive number of us who were born in the years following World War  II.

In less than 10 months, I will be turning 65 and will qualify for Medicare. My mailbox already is being stuffed with direct mail  pieces from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans.

I will also qualify to live in one of the affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant that operate through the  Illinois Supportive Living program.

Why do I bring this up? Because at the Chicagoland Senior Housing Real Estate Conference that I attended last week Boomers and senior housing were among the topics of discussion.

I appreciate being invited to attend the Conference by Joe Beuttas of the Joseph J. Duffy Co., which is based in Chicago. I had the pleasure of working with the Duffy construction company a number of years ago on the development of Addolorata Villa in Wheeling, Illinois. We are both part of the development team for Montclare at Lawndale, an affordable assisted living community on the west side of Chicago.

Chuck Harry, Managing Director of the National Investment Council, mentioned that the first of the Boomers will not be turning 80 until 2026.

I recalled a remark that Ken Dychtwald made at a senior housing conference in Chicago some 25 years ago when actor Paul Newman was in his 60s. Newman competed in auto racing and didn’t retire from acting until he was in his 80s.

Dychtwald addressed the idea that senior housing owners and operators wanted to attract younger older adults. “What are you doing to attract the Paul Newman?” he asked.

At that time, the average age of older adults moving into senior housing homes and apartments was 78. Despite all of the efforts to attract a younger age group, the average age as well as the acuity level of residents moving into senior housing has not gone down; it has increased.

Today, the average age of residents moving into both senior living apartments and assisted living apartments is 84. Seniors are living longer and they are healthier and more active for longer than previous generations. The economy and the real estate market also have played a significant factor. Often, older adults need to sell their house to afford senior housing or assisted living. If a daughter or son is out of work or working part-time rather than full-time, they have more time to take care of an older adult parent.

So it will be another 15 years or so before us Boomers will begin impacting senior housing.

In a panel discussion on Trends and Solutions in the Senior Housing Market, architect Todd Wiltse mentioned that some owners and operators are concerned about how best to prepare for what us Boomers will demand from senior housing and assisted living providers.

Todd is with Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects PC, of Chicago and Champaign, Illinois. We have worked with his firm on a significant number of projects.

I have to agree with Todd; answering that question is a challenge.

At 64, moving into senior living or assisted living is nowhere near the top of my list. And, having visited hundreds upon hundreds of senior living, assisted living and memory care communities, I have no idea of what my needs and wants are likely to be 20 years from now.

As Todd mentioned, including theatre rooms into the design of new or renovated communities has become very popular. But are we going to go to residents streaming movies on a hand-held device?

I never thought 20 years ago that my wife and I would be participating in the marriage of our oldest daughter via Skype. After the ceremony, she wanted to do a father-daughter dance. She was dancing on the patio of the home she was renting in Costa Rica and I in our family room. We were following each other on Skype.

We met our oldest granddaughter for the first time via Skype. We were at my Mother’s house, celebrating her 85th Birthday. We were sitting around the dining room table. As we were talking, we received a text message that our second grandchild was born.

Will we need computer rooms if we all are using hand held devices? Will we need a library? Will books even be printed?

I agree with Todd’s suggestion to develop spaces that can be used for multiple purposes, can easily be converted from one use to another and can be easily combined together to be able to host larger programs and events.

What are your thoughts?

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