What impact will Baby Boomer retirement lifestyle decisions have on the physical makeup of cities, government policies and the building industry? Plenty!
My earlier blog ,What do we really want, makes it pretty clear that we are a very diverse groups with some very specific needs. These needs lead to 5 Real Estate Trends that will shape our decision as to where we actually settle. Once we have located our new address, we are definite about the 11 Must Haves in our Baby Boomer Home.
As social entrepreneur Marc Freedman says, “The reality is that the end of middle age is no longer, for most people, attached to the beginning of either retirement or old age. We’re in the early stages of a great migration…across time and the life course, as tens of millions (8,000 Baby Boomers turn 60 every day) reach the spot where middle age used to end and old age once began.
With these kinds of numbers there can be no doubt that there will be a major reset on how new housing developments are planned, the amenities that will be required to be part of them and the actual spatial and physical requirements of individual homes in order to meet Baby Boomers Housing needs.
Here are some solutions that will address Baby Boomer needs:
- A larger diversity in housing initiatives to reflect the range of needs that the Boomer demographic encompasses. In other words one floor living with our 11 must haves in various sizes, located near facilities and amenities needed for a retirement lifestyle. This means changes in urban planning policies.
- Government must consider both the “early” boomer who is in good health and wishes to remain so, as well as providing health care for boomers who want to age in place as well as those of us with chronic or long term health issues who will require more medical and other kinds of assistance. Obviously this will require a more holistic approach to policies of health care and recreational planning.
- Governments will also need to ensure a mix of low rise and medium density housing with good transit options and safe and well lit communities. The 5 real estate trends make it pretty clear that as baby boomers we want our communities to be welcoming and friendly spaces where we can walk and live, not concrete boxes walled off from the rest of the world, accessible only by cars. Again this will require an integration of policy planning in a variety of areas.
- Down-sizing” should really be interpreted as “right-sizing”. Builders in general and condo builders in particular need to review their unit designs if they want to attract this lucrative segment. With the average size of condo units declining in the past three years, many boomers are not considering high rise condos as viable alternatives.
There is no doubt that we will all need to declutter! But the sizes of principal rooms such as kitchens; great rooms and bathrooms need to reflect what we have become accustomed to in our existing homes. We may no longer need four bedroom and bathroom homes with 3000+ sq. ft. but we still want to entertain our families and friends. We want to have “away” spaces where we can be alone and also have space where we can do our chores and hobbies. This can be done in smaller spaces if they are well designed and thought out. The onus is on builders to “listen” to baby boomers.
Some boomers will want to stay in busy urban centers, perhaps to be near their jobs or families or because of a lifestyle choice. Others will be interested in a quieter location, perhaps in smaller cities or towns. Still others may decide to get back to the land and go into rural areas to live. The result is that governments at every level will need to be aware and involved in the planning of new developments, existing urban centers as well as the “gentrification” of more rural areas, as boomers begin to spread out of the suburban centers they helped established.
Community approaches to living, such as 55+ developments with shared fees for the hard work of grass maintenance and snow removal, while still allowing gardens and decks are the kinds of compromises, boomers are willing to make.
There are many other innovative approaches to 55+ year old living that are being developed in other parts of the world including the United States, Australia and Denmark. Many of them revolve around creating an infrastructure that will provide medical and other services for boomers who live in condos or other low and medium density housing. This will assist aging individuals to stay in their homes for a much longer period of time as well as allow government to focus their resources to service long term care individuals.
Baby Boomers are evolving again. We are changing society through our numbers but also because we are vocal and demanding. The revolution in housing trends for boomers and retirement lifestyles is just beginning. It will impact cities and senior care for the next many decades, as we continue to journey through the adventure of life.