Leading-Edge Boomer Generation Driving Demand for Active Living Communities

We must meet the needs of this growing population, or someone else will.

By Michael Hartman, Capitol Seniors Housing

We didn’t create the growing market for active living communities. The first of what will soon be a tidal wave of baby boomers have retired, and they are telling us exactly what they want. 

Listen to these adults, which represent the fastest growing segment in today’s demographic landscape. Their mandate is clear. Although we are seeing a significant surge of development, there still isn’t enough active living housing — yet — to meet their demand.

Meet the boomer who is changing the landscape of senior living housing in every way imaginable. 

Major Changes Ahead

Currently, market demand for active living is coming from adults amongst the 39.8 million leading-edge baby boomers born from 1946 to 1954.

Unlike the previous generation, the boomer adult feels they have worked hard and deserve some of the finer things in life. They value their individuality, health, wellness, learning, community involvement, self-fulfillment and more. Leading-edge boomers generally also have a higher net worth than their predecessors. 

The boomer adult is active and many are still working or semi-retired. Therefore, active living as a class of real estate carries a literal meaning. 

Working or not, boomers have reached a point where they want to shed themselves of home ownership and let go of the heavy expenses for upkeep and taxes. Instead, they want to downsize and live amongst older adults like themselves who are active and enjoy travel, fine arts, events and socialization. They want clubhouse settings and activities designed to enjoy the company of like-minded neighbors, such as dining together, taking yoga and cooking classes, playing bridge, attending wine tastings, or watching the game together in the clubroom. 

When these residents go to the community fitness center or pool, they want to be amongst peers and thereby more comfortable and less self-conscious. Importantly, they want all of these things with no surprises. They expect to pay the rental and monthly activity fee and be assured everything is taken care of. 

While there are plenty of outstanding senior living communities offering independent living (IL), boomer adults do not see themselves ready for that option. Research tells us very little housing exists for these younger seniors who do not yet need the additional services bundled with the rent for independent living. 

Typical IL services include housekeeping, food and transportation inside their monthly rent, while active living communities allow the resident the option to utilize these services as needed. Independent living rents are typically 40 percent to 50 percent higher than active living communities.

Time to Start Building

Boomers also have an increasing propensity to rent, furthering the case for active living development. According to a recent report by the Demand Institute, Baby Boomers & Their Homes, approximately 32 percent of boomer households will opt to downsize to multifamily homes, with nearly 69 percent preferring to rent rather than buy.

Developers see the trends. They see the boomers arriving now and those to come. Across the United States, there is a limited supply of purpose-built active living communities so we must respond. 

Key areas of developer attention are a matter of common sense. They are eyeing metro areas with the largest senior population growth such as Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and others. Markets such as Raleigh, Austin and Las Vegas are excellent, albeit smaller, markets offering excellent investment opportunities. 

For active living design and amenities, again we are listening to what boomers want. The typical active living community is age-restricted to adults aged 55 or older, and surrounded by amenities for socialization, fitness and recreation. 

For our firm, our prototype community is about 160 to 180 rental apartments on a six-acre plot of land in a suburban area that is walkable to nearby retail. Residential apartments will include attractive floor plans, décor and appliances. 

The hub of the community is the well-appointed clubhouse, with amenities such as bistros, workout rooms, outdoor seating areas, a pool and more. 

Unlike traditional independent living communities, we do not have a commercial kitchen and dining plans. However, we do design for the future so, as the community’s residents age, we can add that as an option.

As a developer, we believe we are not only fulfilling a mandate of a new generation of older adults, but we also feel we are doing good, noble work. Many research studies have found that maintaining social relationships and avoiding isolation improves the aging adult’s emotional and physical health. 

We believe active adult communities can make it easier for these adults to make new friends and discover new ways to enjoy life.


Michael Hartman is principal of active living for Capitol Seniors Housing. He is responsible for the firm’s active living platform, which focuses on investing in assets catering to residents who are over 55 years of age. Hartman brings more than two decades of commercial real estate principal and advisory expertise to his role with Capitol Seniors Housing.