The Ballad Of Boomer Retirement

Del Webb is changing its approach to retirement communities.

By By Rob Fanjoy, Associate Editor | April 27, 2000

For decades, Del Webb has called the tune for retirement communities with their Sun City developments. But with a huge segment of the population nearing retirement and marching to a different beat, the Phoenix-based builder has responded by composing Anthem, an age-inclusive community just north of Phoenix that is resonating with baby boomers.

"We see a future trend of all demographic groups, in particular aging baby boomers, seeking out a diverse and inclusive living environment," says Anne Mariucci, senior vice president in charge of family and country club communities. "These groups are not as accepting of a formal age-restricted environment, and we’re keenly aware of that in our future planning."

After developing and redeveloping their Sun City active adult communities for the past 40 years, Del Webb Corporation saw an immense business opportunity in the boomer generation. According to the National Council on Senior’s Housing, there are currently 32.8 million Americans aged 55 - 69, and that number will increase to 55.2 million by 2015. And everything we know about the boomers tells us they’ll be more diverse and discerning than previous generations.


The leading edge of baby boomers are especially attracted to the Anthem Country Club village in Anthem Phoenix. Features such as luxurious courtyards in front (picture 1), private outdoor living spaces in back (above) and flexible floor plans (picture 2) wired for home office technology make these homes both plush and practical. "This particular village simplifies boomer life, alleviating time famine and providing an all-inclusive community with entertainment, security, services, education and cultural activities all in one area," says Del Webb Vice President Anne Mariucci.


"During the last four decades this industry has talked about the evolution of retirement in America," says LeRoy Hanneman, newly appointed CEO of Del Webb. "Today, we need to start talking about a revolution by the people who will be zooming into retirement with vastly different goals, agendas and financial prosperity than previous retirees."

In typical Del Webb fashion, the company has conducted extensive market research aimed at better understanding the boomer market. Part of that research is a nationwide survey of 800 boomers and retirees, which shows that the face of retirement is set to change drastically.

Some highlights of the company’s Baby Boomer Retirement Survey include:



  • More than 60% of boomers polled will continue to work at least 20 hours per week after retirement.



  • Almost 40% own two or more computers (compared to 67% of current retirees who own none).



  • All boomers, both male and female, say they are seven times more likely than those 65 and older to start a new career in retirement.



  • Twice as many boomers (28%) as in the 65 plus group say they will go back to school in retirement.

    As Mariucci explains, Anthem Arizona is a departure for Del Webb, but a calculated one. The company has taken lessons from past Sun City developments and applied them to Anthem, and plans on applying lessons from Anthem to future Sun City developments.

    "Pursuing communities like Anthem are important strategically because it gives us a glimpse into what baby boomers will want at retirement age in terms of lifestyle, amenity packages and product choices," says Mariucci. "Our Anthems are a strategic laboratory into what will become the Sun City communities 10 years from now."

    The company has already compiled a "Top 10 Housing Trends" list based on their Anthem experience and the Retirement 2000 survey. According to their future blueprint, boomers in the 21st century rank great rooms as their leading design priority. They also rank gourmet kitchens over pools, expect home office space, demand upgraded wiring packages, would love an exercise room and emphasize energy efficiency.

    According to Mariucci, there is one other amenity that is absolutely vital to boomers.

    "They are increasingly attracted to walking and hiking in a beautiful and natural environment away from the streets and sidewalks," says Mariucci. "Our natural trail systems are by far the most desired amenity by our boomer buyers."

    And they’ve had plenty of buyers, as the community has sold more than 1000 homes in just over one year. Del Webb is looking to parlay this type of success into their future Sun City communities.

    "Our development process is a constantly evolving one. We’re looking to further embrace these principles in the future," says Mariucci.

    The Anthem communities (Del Webb has another in Las Vegas) are looked upon within the company as a complementary and non-competitive aspect of the Sun City developments. With Sun City already moving into the Chicago area, the company is also looking to expand both community models to other geographic regions.

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