Many members of the baby boom generation—who are quite unique in many respects—may not opt for the traditional retirement community. "The future of senior housing will be anything but cookie cutter," says Andrew Carle, director of the assisted living/senior housing administration program at George Mason University. He thinks the next generation of communities will target specific niches that cater to boomers' needs and whims. Here's a look at five unusual communities that cater to specific interests:
Campus living. Many of the fastest-growing retirement communities are located on or near college campuses. According to Carle, more than 100 university-based retirement facilities are currently open or in development, and campuses involved include Stanford, Notre Dame, and Pennsylvania State University. "You've got some of these alums that have been extremely loyal for 40 years, and they still go to football games and wear the sweatshirt," he says. "Now they have the opportunity to retire and spend the last years of their life there." Residents have access to many campus resources, including classes, libraries, athletic games, and concerts. William Anderson, 85, a retired child and adolescent psychiatrist at Duke University, lives at one of these communities, The Forest at Duke, in Durham, N.C., located about a mile from the Duke campus. Anderson has access to Duke medical care and he also serves on a medical school admissions committee. The 400-resident facility, which opened in 1992, offers lectures from local experts and scholars, and residents can also attend performances by musicians and theater groups that make frequent appearances on campus.
Feng shui. Andrew Wong, 88, a retired health department payroll clerk, moved from San Francisco to Aegis Gardens in Fremont, Calif., where the staff at this Asian-inspired speak his native language, Cantonese. In fact, the majority of Aegis staff members are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, and/or Japanese. Plus, signs are printed in both English and Chinese characters, and feng shui consultants contributed to the building's design. "The Chinese believe that when a staircase faces the front door, all your good luck goes out the door," says Emily Poon, executive director of Aegis Gardens. "Our staircase doesn't face the door—it goes to the side," Also, the number four isn't found on any room numbers, as it symbolizes death, Poon says. And although other retirement communities owned by Aegis Living tend to have blue carpets and blue staff uniforms, Aegis Gardens uses maroon (since blue symbolizes sorrow). Popular activities include tai chi, Chinese calligraphy, and Chinese painting and opera, but residents also enjoy bingo, poker, and dancing.
GLBT community. At RainbowVision Santa Fe, same-sex couples are the norm: the majority of this community's 120 residents identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. "[In the LGBT community,] socialization and relatedness become important in their second 50 years, much like people in other ethnic or cultural groups," says RainbowVision's president, Joy Silver. She adds: "We don't have a golf course, but we have a cabaret." Barbara Cohn, 64, and her partner Janice Gaynor, 65, moved to the Santa Fe facility in March 2006 from San Francisco. "It's a wonderful mix of gays of lesbians and wonderful straight couples who know well where they are going to live," says Cohn. At RainbowVision, there's no age requirement and many of the residents continue to work full-time and often socialize within and outside the community. "Usually, we all get together at breakfast in a big building and check in and talk," says Cohn. "It's a way of living that is very free."
Retirement for country music lovers. Those who made country music their career can now make it part of their retirement. The Crescendo at Westhaven, near Nashville, is scheduled to open in 2013. The community will have a recording facility, a theater, an outdoor performance area, and a gazebo for smaller concerts. "We wanted to create an environment where there's ongoing contact with the folks who are retired from the business with those still in the business," says Ed Benson, president of Crescendo's board and recently retired chief executive of the Country Music Association. "There's a great history in our industry of reverence and respect that current writers and performers have for their predecessors. It will be invigorating and stimulating for the senior residents and it will be meaningful for the younger writers to interact with those who have come before them." But the opportunity to share your stories in song doesn't come cheap. Entrance fees, which are 90 percent refundable when tenants leave the facility, will range from $300,000 to $650,000. That's in addition to monthly fees for services. Although it's designed for retirees in the music and entertainment industry, the 180-unit facility will be open to all country music enthusiasts.