retirement communities

Recruiting Retired Renters: Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

Renting is no longer just for college kids and young executives.

Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age and drawn to the convenience of renting. Here’s what every building owner needs to know.The face of the senior market is changing rapidly. As Baby Boomers hit retirement age, many are seeking the convenience and sense of community found in rental properties.

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Naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, have been discussed by urban planners since the 1980s. Much like neighborhoods centered on common ethnic and economic backgrounds, these communities grow around residents of a similar age.  Buildings can attract the senior demographic by offering features, amenities, and upgrades to appeal to the 65+ set. The twist? Many of these features also attract younger tenants, too!


Why Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities are Great for Building Owners

What’s a NORC? Classic naturally occurring retirement communities are also known as vertical or closed NORCs. These housing-based communities occur in a single building, a complex of buildings under the same management, or in an area where several apartment buildings cluster together and share tenants. The common thread? The age of most residents: 55 and older.

Neighborhood NORCs may also occur in condo units, gated communities or groups of several homes with residents of the same age. Much has been discussed about the preference of Baby Boomers to “age in place,” and the foreseen effect on the housing market. While it’s true, two-thirds of Boomer homeowners express a desire to stay in their home for the rest of their lives, many Boomers are realizing the merits of renting, particularly as they age. Since 2009, renters 55 and older have increased by 28%!

retirement communities After all, renting offers many benefits to older adults—social connections, safety and security, proximity to healthcare and city amenities, as well as convenience. Renters don’t need to worry about lawn care, yard upkeep or home repairs. If they’re fortunate to be part of a naturally occurring retirement community, they’re surrounded by their friends and peers. The social aspect of active senior living communities appeals to Baby Boomers who aren’t ready to settle into the rocking chair any time soon!

Baby Boomers are often financially stable renters—40% of senior renters say they rent by choice, not out of financial necessity. Most senior renters also reported they had no plans to buy a home down the road. This is a demographic who’s happy to rent, willing to splurge on luxury and will stay with the right building for a long time!

So as a building owner, what upgrades will foster naturally occurring retirement communities and appeal to this hot target demographic?


Building Features to Attract Retirees

Your building may already have some of these features in your units to appeal to senior renters. If you’re hoping to foster a NORC, consider upgrading your units so they’re even more attractive to the senior demographic.

Single types of flooring, such as vinyl, laminate or hardwood cut down on the amount of clean-up and maintenance required for the unit. Cohesive flooring also adds to the safety of the space and accessibility for those using a walker or suffering from arthritis. Many seniors seek units with one-level as well. Stairs present a safety concern and for older senior’s mobility is very important. For this same reason, if your building has an elevator it will be extra appealing to older renters.

Onsite laundry facilities and even micro-washers and dryers in the unit are another convenience for senior renters. Not only will they save time spent at the laundromat or a relative’s house, but onsite laundry is safer and easier. While 1 in 5 drivers is over 65, many older seniors would still prefer to do laundry in their own apartment (or at least within the building).

Convenient parking appeals to many renters. If your building doesn’t have a parking lot, contract with a local parking structure to provide reserved parking for residents. Two-thirds of the cars sold in the U.S. in 2011 were purchased by those over 50 and 93% of 60-64-year-olds have drivers licenses. Baby Boomers may like renting, but they still enjoy their cars and need a convenient parking spot. 87% reported a shorter commute time to work as being a motivating factor for city living and 90% wanted to boost their cultural experience. These seniors aren’t sitting around! They’re still working, driving and engaged in their community!

The minimalism of apartment living also appeals to seniors, many of whom prefer to simplify and downsize as they get older. While there’s been a lot of talk about the popularity of small spaces for millennials lately, seniors want similar, if not the same options to choose from. A small apartment appeals to older renters, especially singles. One in three seniors age 55-75, is unmarried (most are divorced or never married, and only 10% are widowed). Having a small studio or a one-bedroom is perfect for an adult on their own.

Security features appeal to all renters, retirees included. Senior renters appreciate little touches building owners and landlords put in place to keep the building safe and secure. Locks and deadbolts are important in every unit. Peepholes, cameras or doors controlled by a buzzer system protect residents from outside intruders, allowing them to only answer the door for guests they invite and know. Well-lit shared-spaces with motion sensing lights, clear, bright stairwells and even building security personnel will boost the comfort of all residents of any age.

Safety upgrades are also important. Working smoke detectors are vital in every unit (follow state regulations for the number and required locations). Install fire extinguishers in each unit as well. Take time to share safety protocol with your tenants including emergency evacuation plans. Check for other safety hazards like lose railings throughout your buildings. Seniors may also appreciate the ability to install safety bars in the bathroom and non-slip flooring in the shower. These little touches go a long way to show residents you’re attentive to their needs.

retirement communities

Other amenities such as a gym, pool or green spaces appeal to all renters, but especially this age bracket.  The truth is, many Boomers aren’t seeking the restricted living of their parents and retirement communities they saw growing up. This is an active group, interested in their health and well-being. They want to keep their bodies fit with on-site gym facilities, to entertain friends and family in communal party rooms, and to belong to a thriving retirement community.


Location Features to Attract Older Renters

While you can’t move your building to the ideal location, you CAN highlight local appeal to Baby Boomers renting apartments. If your building is near any of the following, be sure to mention it to potential renters.

Proximity to health care facilities is a huge attraction for retired renters. You don’t need to share a campus with your local hospital, of course, but a building within walking distance to holistic health providers, general practice, dental, and chiropractic services will appeal to renters 55 and older.

Culture, dining, and entertainment are appealing to semi-retired and retired renters. The Baby Boomers are the generation of Elvis, the Beatles, and Woodstock. These seniors aren’t ready to retire quietly, they’re living life to the fullest and love to be entertained. If your building is close to a theater, cultural center, restaurants, bars or even a golf course, it’s worth promoting. Libraries, senior and community centers also offer great classes and entertainment for seniors on a budget.

Urban centers are where the concept of the naturally occurring retirement community began, and properties in those areas are still the strongest. These locations often feature access to easy public transportation, unique shopping, and business districts. With fewer seniors opting for traditional retirement, the ability to get to the office quickly is still high on their radar. Living within walking distance from a market, a coffee shop or bus-stop is a big selling (or renting) point.

While your building should accommodate renters of any age, focusing your efforts on appealing to seniors, is certainly worth it. Seniors are stable, savvy, conscientious renters, with a strong sense of community. The concept of naturally occurring retirement communities grew from residents sharing commonalities and living longer, vibrant lives together.

Your building can attract older residents by encouraging active senior living, shared experiences, and support for neighbors. A sense of community makes your property more than a building; it makes it home for your tenants.


Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Addison Place licensed under CC by 2.0.
Post images “Mesa Royale” courtesy of Flickr user Scott Jacob, and “Barcelona” courtesy of Flickr user Soreen D licensed under CC by 2.0.