Senior Housing Meets Margaritaville

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Take Me Away to a New Age of Senior Longevity

This ain’t your father’s retirement home. Or maybe it will be. Latitude Margaritaville is a $1 billion luxury resort-style senior community inspired by Jimmy Buffett himself. And though Buffett-the-singer may no longer be “trending,” a new era of spa-like senior housing communities certainly is.

By 2035, 1/3 of U.S. households will be headed by someone 65+. That leaves tremendous opportunity for independent living and retirement communities that meet the needs of youthful seniors. In fact, independent living has become a favorite investment opportunity in the senior housing sector, reaching a seven-year high in occupancy rates closing out 2016, and boasting the highest absorption rate in one quarter since NIC started collecting data in 2006.

Latitude Margaritaville will feature 7,000 homes, as well as personal beach access, lap pools, spas, recreation and fitness facilities, live music facilities, and indoor/outdoor dining. And although the community is currently geared to those 55+, development partner Minto Group indicated that incorporating assisted living into the community is an eventual possibility.

While Latitude Margaritaville may present an extreme example of the spa-like communities popping up in the senior housing sector, it is definitely indicative of an industry-wide trend. Says Dan Brewer, Chief Fund Manager at SeniorLivingFund.com, a private equity fund focused on senior housing developments in the United States, the quality and services being developed in the industry have never more focused on creating healthful and joyful experiences for senior residents—something that was not always the case in traditional “nursing homes.”

“The entire concept of senior housing is changing,” Brewer says. “More and more, we’re able to invest in communities that will enhance the lives of seniors—not just provide a safe place to stay.”

One of Senior Living Fund’s recent investments in Madison County, Alabama, for instance, features farm-to-table dining, wine storage, animal therapy, a full-service salon, and sports tavern. The $25 million ground-up development is set to open this fall.

“What we’re seeing in the industry is that baby boomers want these higher quality residences,” Brewer says. “That doesn’t just mean new communities are being built. It means even more older communities are being renovated to meet their increasing demands.”

Indeed, with $3 trillion in net worth, it seems the growing baby boomer generation is “willing to spend more to live comfortably”—which translates into even greater competition for operators and developers looking to up their game to attract these private-pay customers. Marcus & Millichap’s National Seniors Housing Research Report noted that luxury independent and assisted living communities were “leading the charge” in construction in the second half of 2016, and that trend seems likely to continue as more active baby boomers “age out” of single-family residences. When it comes to Margaritaville, for instance, more than 10,000 people had registered for a spot in the billion-dollar community within two weeks of launching the project—proving today’s seniors have no desire for being “wasted away” in their winter years.

Jess Stonefield is a contributing writer on aging, technology, senior care, housing, and the greater longevity economy for publications such as Forbes.com, Entrepreneur, and CNN Money. She is passionate about impact investing and the greater concept of “equitable equity”—spreading wealth to all levels of our society.

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