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The New York Times Sunday Magazine has a fascinating piece about the challenges being faced by an aging population, and how business models are being built to cater to their evolving needs and desires. And it uses the new Latitude Margaritaville communities, for people 55 and older, as the petrie dish in which it examines the trend.

An excerpt:

“To be sure, Margaritaville is not representative of how most of us will spend our retirement years. Fewer than 14 percent of Americans 75 and older occupy some form of senior housing today. Three-quarters of those over 50 say they would prefer not to move at all. And untold numbers of seniors who might need or want to enter an age-restricted or assisted-living community won’t be able to afford to do so; 30 percent of those 65 and older have an annual income below $23,000, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The least-expensive homes in Margaritaville are more than 10 times that, before the monthly association fee of roughly $200 — and those sums don’t include meals or care … Like all pioneer settlements, however, Margaritaville is not just a place but an idea — an imagined utopia, in this case inspired by a Jimmy Buffett song’s reference to a frozen cocktail.”

You can read the story, with its strong insights into what is happening to an entire generation, here.
KC's View:
I’m fascinated by this, for several reasons.

First, there is the branding issue. I have to wonder if by associating itself with the aging process - albeit with, in some ways, the denial of the aging process - Margaritaville is putting an expiration date on its brand. I think it might make more sense to figure out how to make the brand more relevant to younger people, so that it is sustainable even beyond the life of its founder. I’d be asking myself, “How do we make sure Margaritaville is a vibrant brand at the end of the century?”

Second, maybe because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in complexes designed for older folks over the past few years (visiting, not scouting), I’ll admit that Margaritaville sounds more attractive than some of them. But I’d rather do the real thing than some artificial, commercialized approximation.

As I get older, here is one of the Buffett lyrics that I find most compelling:

Now he lives in the islands
Fishes the pilings
And drinks his green label each day
Writing his memoirs
Losin' his hearin’
But he don't care what most people say.
Through eighty-six years of perpetual motion
If he likes you he'll smile, and he'll say,
"Jimmy, some of it's magic, some of it's tragic
But I had a good life all of the way.”

Sounds like a good way to go.