Multifamily communities have a new generation of decision-makers approaching their front doors, both virtually and literally.
Baby boomers are entering market-rate and active adult communities and will be shopping for senior living communities of various service types, according to Josh Crisp, CEO of Solinity Marketing, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a growing Southeast-based portfolio of six communities in various stages of development and opening.
As multifamily developers and operators are preparing to welcome baby boomers to their communities, they have great opportunities to adapt services to deliver what is meaningful for this demographic and to develop a communication strategy that appeals to this generation of renters.
“I suppose it would be really simple if one communication method and one amenity package was proven and we knew it worked,” says Crisp, who has 17 years’ experience marketing communities, including at the national level. “That’s simply not the case. More than ever, senior living communities must be savvy and sophisticated in a vast array of communication methods thanks to technology and changing lifestyles across generations.”
Crisp says that while marketers know a little about boomers' preferences on communication, lifestyle, and amenities, they do know that the key to attracting boomers is with quality content.
“Content is king,” he says. “When building a content strategy, you need to go back to understanding your audience. For most boomers, they have been accustomed to reading longer content and the internet is still relatively new. So, while a younger person may prefer short catchy summaries, a boomer that is interested may be willing to read and research for 10 minutes on good quality content and may actually prefer it.”
After all, many boomers still enjoy reading news columns and other similar formats of style and length, Crisp says.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” for senior living communities, Crisp adds. A multigenerational approach requires multiple communication strategies. Here are a few ways Solinity develops its communication strategies:
- Get to know the demographics of prospective renters;
- Build a specific strategy for each demographic; and
- Always be learning and evaluating your strategy. It’s a living organism.
To better communicate and meet demands of boomers, it is important to understand their preferences as each generation have unique preferences, Crisp says.
The boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, grew up in an era with limited digital technology. They transitioned from landlines and bulky devices after their formative years and are not as quick to adopt new communication methods.
Making a Personal Connection
According to a 2019 study, an average of about 93% of boomers use email on a daily basis but still prefer person-to-person, face-to-face communication, Crisp says.
“This is just the opposite of some of the younger generation, from which senior communities are recruiting for employment positions,” he adds. “Because we know that almost all boomers are using email daily, it’s a no-brainer that communities need a robust email marketing campaign, with a growing database, and one that needs to be rich in content.”
But it doesn’t stop there. “We also know that most still prefer the ‘sniff test’ ... you know, 'kick the tires' as they say,” Crisp says. “They want to be able to look you in the eyes and talk in person.”
While that has been challenging during the past year, Solinity strives to make a personal connection with the boomers. “It’s the way to win,” he says.
Revel Communities leaned on technology after it saw what it called a “fantastic opportunity” to use personalized virtual video tours during the pandemic.
“We continue to do so even as we’ve returned to business as usual, it’s a great way to share features of our communities with anyone who can’t come in to tour,” says Danette Opaczewski, executive vice president, resident experience, and chief operating officer at Revel Communities, a division of The Wolff Co., which has a national portfolio. “We find phone calls and texts to work well for check-ins and follow-up questions, but walking in and experiencing the community and its vibrancy in person is often what convinces them that Revel is a great fit.”
Lifestyle and Pets Win the Day
It’s interesting to study how differently the generations prefer to communicate, but equally interesting to track some of their similarities.
“For example, we see both the boomers and the younger generation greatly value lifestyle and pets,” Crisp says. “Boomers want to be able to have space to have various lifestyles, and a large portion of the population is committed to giving their pets the best lifestyles possible. So, we are seeing a trend to design around caring for those with pets.”
Revel Communities are pet-friendly, a very appealing feature for its prospective residents. “Pets are family, and we offer a community that welcomes four-legged friends with open arms. All Revel communities offer well-designed dog parks, frequent pet-friendly events like Yappy Hours,” Opaczewski says.
For boomers, growing old doesn’t mean growing inactive, Crisp notes.
“Boomers want to be engaged and continue the pursuit of living and having meaningful experiences with purpose,” he says. “This is interesting because that is also something the younger generations value. There is a great opportunity for communities to create intergenerational programming that creates environments for fulfillment.”
At Revel, its outdoor spaces offer something for everyone, Opaczewski says. “Residents can lounge poolside, take a stroll around our nature-filled pathways, enjoy dining outdoors or do a little gardening.”
Several Revel communities have unique outdoor features like a pickleball court at Revel Eagle in Eagle, Idaho, and the Sky Lounge at our upcoming community in Scottsdale. Natural light-filled lobby lounges are a popular gathering space day and night.
“They are the perfect spot to grab coffee and chat with neighbors or enjoy a glass of wine next to the fireplace,” Opaczewski says.
Taking Pride in Their Communities
Jamie Flores, vice president of lifestyle services for the Western Division at CCMC, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, says boomers respond best to in-person, walk-in conversations, email, Facebook, YouTube, and bulletin or display boards in clubhouses/amenity centers.
Flores says CCMC’s active adult residents have a variety of interests, but specifically take a lot of pride in their communities and neighbors.
“They respond positively whenever we recognize residents and volunteerism in the community,” Flores says. “Other topics or themes that are always popular include anything related to life-long learning, education, health and wellness, and active lifestyles.”
Flores says boomers are also very appreciative of community involvement and want to be kept up-to-date on all things related to their community and living in the community. She frequently updates them on landscaping, program offerings, and maintenance and construction.
She adds that the amenities or other community features that are most popular to her residents, and therefore are emphasized in their marketing collateral, include:
- Sports courts (pickleball, bocce, putting green, tennis);
- Pools and spas (used heavily for activities and lounging—water aerobics, water volleyball, lap swimming);
- Fitness centers (equipment and movement rooms);
- Large event rooms (to host concerts, dances, parties);
- Multipurpose rooms (home to a lot of clubs and groups activities); and
- Walking trails, greenspaces, and garden areas
Messages and Images with Inclusivity
Residents appreciate timely, consistent, and transparent communications, according to Flores. Imagery also plays a key role.
“Typically, we include photos of our residents, community, projects, maps, etc.,” she says. “Really, anything that enhances or illustrates what we’re sharing.”
Opaczewski says freedom and choice are the most important messages Revel Communities conveys through its advertising.
“We want potential residents to know they can live life the way they want,” she says. “If they’d like to be health-focused, we have the dining options, state-of-the-art fitness center, and yoga classes to accommodate that.
“If they want to enjoy a burger and a beer and then go to the theater, that’s great too. We like to use images that are natural and not staged. We want to represent diversity in age, gender, and race to connect well with our prospective residents.”