As the Eisenhower generation gives way to Baby Boomers, developers of active adult communities wonder whether the Boomers will react to senior citizenship in the same way their parents did. While it seems unlikely that a generation that once said, "Don't trust anyone over 30," may head for the same golf courses, tennis courts and destination locations that drew the previous generation, what will happen remains a burning question, especially for developers whose bank accounts depend on the accuracy of their guesses.
That question was a topic at one of many sessions during the Urban Land Institute's fall meeting in Chicago in November. Moderated by Gadi Kaufmann, managing director and CEO of Chevy Chase, Md., a panel of developers ranging from David Schreiner, senior vice president of Del Webb Corp., Huntley, Ill., to Gregg T. Logan, managing director, Robert Charles Lesser & Co., Atlanta, Ga., conjectured whether changing demographics would mean that healthy, financially secure adults ages 55 to 75 would seek a life in a resort setting with planned activities or continue in the do-your-own-thing lifestyle of their youth. The answer becomes even more critical as one looks at the statistics, which show a doubling of the number of the people in that age category as the Boomers head into their golden years. They may stay in the workforce longer, and spend their money on a second home or getaway rather than moving into a retirement community. For Del Webb Corp., the changing demographics have meant the opening of its first four-seasons retirement community in Huntley, Ill. As Schreiner comments, the customer is becoming more complex. More retirees want to stay closer to home and not move to destination locations as seniors have in the past. Developers are likely to build smaller communities in more spots.
But it all remains an open question. "The killing decision in this business is thinking you know what you're doing. Those people go broke," Schreiner says.
"There is no silver bullet for this consumer," Kathleen B. Cecilian, president, KC & Associates of Flemington, N.J., says. She explains that a generation that embraces individuality and personal dream fulfilment is looking for a "comfort zone," but one that is individual, not mass-produced. "Innovation will rule and whoever has those answers will be the winner," she says.