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The Silent Generation Explores Retirement Community Options

It may difficult to imagine Tina Turner, Gloria Steinem or Neil Armstrong moving into a retirement community. Yet, these youthful icons are all members of the "Silent Generation," the next wave of people moving into continuing care retirement communities.

Born between 1925 and 1942, the so-called, Silent Generation, is tremendously influential, but often overlooked. This generation got its moniker because of its smaller than average numbers. During the 1930s, national birth rates slowed due to the Depression. And, sandwiched between the "Greatest Generation" defined by its important role in World War II and the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, this generation typically receives less attention.

While this generation may be characterized as unpretentious, pragmatic and hardworking people, "silent" is a bit of a misnomer. Many revolutionary leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as important artists and writers who fundamentally changed the arts in the United States belong to this generation. Martin Luther King, The Beatles, Jamie Wyeth, Robert Maplethorpe and James Brown, for instance, are members of the Silent Generation.

Today, this generation is 68 to 75 years-old, and retirement communities across the country are beginning to see a generational shift, with more incoming residents being a part of The Silent Generation.

"We try to always listen to our residents, and to make sure that activities, cuisine and accommodations really meet their needs," says Bonnie Cummings, director of sales at Smith Crossing a continuing care retirement community in Orland Park, Ill. A generational shift makes this particularly important and Cummings says that Smith Crossing pays attention to the evolving needs of new residents.

Silent Generation/Add one

Demographically, The Silent Generation tends to be more affluent than the generations that came before or after. They are well-traveled and have developed more international tastes in food than their meat and potatoes parents. The Silent Generation typically enjoys the arts and theater, and is more likely than other generations to return to school, even after retirement.

They also remain strongly connected to their communities and families. While previous generations may have retired to Florida or Phoenix, The Silent Generation usually prefers to stay closer to home and near their adult children.

"We're finding that residents of this generation want different activities like Wii games and line dancing as well as diverse dining choices because their taste has been influenced by their international travel," says Frank Guajardo, executive director of Smith Crossing. "The character of our community truly is driven by the residents themselves. So, as we experience a generational transition, we definitely see Smith Crossing change and enhance what it has to offer."

Despite the low birthrates, the healthfulness and increased longevity of the Silent Generation has local retirement communities expecting skyrocketing need for superior residences and services for older adults. According to Cummings, Illinois' southwest suburban region is seeing a dramatic increase in its population of older adults. Claritas research shows that in the Orland Park area, for instance, the senior population is expected to top 67,000 people by 2013. With 36 percent of those senior households headed by an adult over age 75, the need for services to current and future residents is more important than ever before.

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