Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Old? No Way!

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Old? No Way!

Article excerpt

Grandpa sits outside drinking lemonade with Grandma, watching the sunset, thinking about tomorrow when maybe he'll go out fishin. Content to kick back and relax, the old-timers smile at the youngsters rushing off into their busy world, happy they no longer have to deal with such hustle and bustle.

Think again! Using that angle in a senior housing ad is like attaching a DOA tag to the doorknob. And with the senior population exploding at an amazing rate, that could be a costly mistake.

Pep it Up!

Forget the perception of the old folk's home, says Robert Kramer, executive director of the National Investment Conference, who recently conducted a survey on the opinions of adults 60 and over. "Many developers and investors have been focusing on the most care-intensive facilities," he says. "This survey emphasizes the opportunity to shift from assisted living communities to developments that target more active adults. It estimates that the active adult segment totals from 35 to 50 percent of the entire market for seniors housing." The NIC study indicates that almost half of the respondents who live in age-restricted housing live in active adult communities, not communities with a personal service or healthcare environment.

The competition is already mounting, says Allison Patterson, editor of Selling to Seniors, which evaluates ads, newspapers, and letters looking at seniors housing from all over the country. "The nonprofit sector traditionally had been dominant in senior living," she says. "But, today the private sector is taking that over and moving into cities all over the place. It's getting more competitive out there and with that comes more advertising and more marketing."

Understanding Boomers

But before you even get them shopping for a new place, the hardest part is to get them to leave the house they've lived in for most of their lives. The biggest competition isn't the retirement community across the street, it's home sweet home.

"No one in their right mind would move out of the house they lived in for 35 years unless there was a tangible benefit," says Robert Snyder, senior vice president of JWT Specialized Communications, an offshoot of advertising giant J Walter Thompson, serving over 100 mature adult communities in Texas and Florida.

"That's the big mistake developers who don't know anything about seniors make-they think it's much like selling apartments, but it's not at all. People won't move unless services are involved that offer benefits and the lifestyle that will correlate with those benefits. Seniors want peace of mind, security, companionship, dignity, freedom, and independence-that's what retirement housing should be selling because that's what seniors are going to buy," Snyder concludes.

Understanding how and why mature consumers think the way they do can be the key to get them to sign your lease. Says Snyder, a good place to start is by looking at the belief systems of older adults: the convictions, shaped by their personal and shared history, that influence their decision-making.

In Rocking the Ages, Walker Smith and Ann Clurman agree that core values underlie the attitudes that shape the consumerism of a generation. Smith and Clurman say that Boomers (and in some cases the 60-somethings who immediately precede them), nurtured in the bountiful post-war period are entitled to the wealth and opportunity that seemed endless during their youth. They say Boomers will bring a lifetime spending habit with them, continuing to search for the next new adventure.

And according to Snyder, because they will both need and intend to remain in the workforce longer than their parents, they may spark an intergenerational struggle that makes the generation gap they inspired in the 1960s seem tame and quaint. As a generation, Boomers remain convinced that they can change the world. Yet their history to date suggests that they have been more important as dreamers and visionaries, rather than doers and builders. …

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