Wayne Langley

Resident entertainment is an important part of life at retirement communities. Whether you label it “life enrichment,” “activities,” “resident programming” or something else, the desired result is often the same — engaged residents. However, what residents find enjoyable and engaging today is very different from 10 years ago. This led us to wonder: What will this field look like in the future? As the Boomer wave crests, and Generation X looks to retirement, how will that impact resident programming?

The youngest Baby Boomers are about 53 years old now. That means that, in fewer than 10 years, they are going to be the target market for retirement marketing professionals. In the same vein, however, this means that the oldest Gen-Xers are also aging into the target market rapidly. Providers are going to have to adapt to these changing tastes and demographics at all levels of the business.

Let’s start with our marketing events. Today, popular events include lunch & learns, perhaps with entertainment. Common choices include doo-wop groups, Motown covers and some big band favorites. However, 10 to 15 years from now, those tastes are going to drastically change; instead of Sinatra, your events may be headed by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Are you ready to employ acts that perform disco favorites? Or maybe you’ll have a Pink Floyd experience before showing off your latest model apartments. It’ll be a whole new world.

Once you get the residents in the door, your internal activities team will take over and begin planning events that appeal to this newer generation of residents. Sure, the old favorites will still be there — arboretums, shopping trips and museums — but we can anticipate some of the new trends just by looking at the changing interests of current residents. Home brewing, wine making, model aircraft and drones, motorcycle riding and more have already made their way onto campuses. To these, you might add Lego enthusiasts, skiers and snowboarders and avant-garde film connoisseurs. No longer will you be playing “Singing in the Rain” for the Friday night films; instead, you might be screening old favorites by Otto Preminger, Federico Fellini or Kenneth Anger.

Tastes in food will also begin to morph. Communities all over the country are already implementing international cuisine into their menus for special events. This trend is going to not only grow but explode, as residents want to adventure to new places with their taste buds. Remember, Generation X and their juniors have grown up in a society where eating out is pretty common. This is sure to have impacted their tastes and preferences in dining, making them even more demanding than current residents.

The demands on your physical facility are also going to grow. Communities are already repositioning their offerings, becoming more like resorts every day. The next generation of residents will want spaces and living environments that work for them and meet their unique needs. Remember, Baby Boomers (and, to a lesser extent, Generation X) are the original “Me Generations.” If your campus doesn’t have the amenities, living spaces and extras that potential residents desire, you are going to have an uphill battle.

Certainly, it’s fun to theorize what will happen in the future — man has been doing it for thousands of years. While we still don’t have flying cars, robot lawn mowers or devices that can read our minds, we can see the immediate future — and it includes smart home technology, better wellness facilities and an increased desire for the finer things in life.

What will your campus look like in 10 years? The choice is yours, and you are making it every day.