REwatch: How Boomers are Changing Housing

2013-10-20T09:15:00Z REwatch: How Boomers are Changing HousingMichelle Krueger Times Columnist
October 20, 2013 9:15 am  • 

Using the timeframe that most commonly defines baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – there are about 75 million people between the ages of 49 and 67 currently living in the U.S.

In 2007, it was reported that people born during the “height” of the baby boom in 1957 turned 50 at an estimated rate of one every seven seconds. Using that same mathematical formula, “Baby Boomer Headquarters” reports the number of people born in 1963 who are joining the 50+ club this year – myself included - has tapered off to one every 8.5 seconds.

Just as the sheer number of babies born following the return of American soldiers from World War II changed the country, we are on the verge of a new phase of boomer impact, and many believe it is rooted in housing.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) forecasts that the share of households headed by someone age 55+ will increase through 2019 to account for more than 45 percent of all U.S. households. These ever-growing ranks of empty-nesters, new retirees, grandparents and active seniors create an opportunity for builders across the country to meet the special needs and preferences of 50+ buyers looking to relocate, downsize their homes or find a new senior-friendly community.

Over the last decade, I have had the opportunity to preview some our local options – covering stories for remodelers who are helping people age in place with universal design elements, builders who are introducing new maintenance-free homes in a wide range of price points and settings throughout Northwest Indiana along with developers who are establishing communities that provide a continuum of living environments from independent and assisted to full nursing care.

This experience proved helpful when my own mother was ready to downsize last year and has also shed some light on the tough calls that need to be made as our parents are aging right along with us. It’s often the topic of conversation after catching up on what our kids – who are actually young adults spreading their wings and leaving the nest for college and careers – are up to now.

So as we are all getting older (and hopefully wiser), the NAHB is shining a spotlight on what they have defined as the “50+ niche.”

According to the 50+ Housing Council, the 50+ niche is vitally important to help ease the transitions between life stages. Builders are redefining what it means to relocate with age by providing more lifestyle options for the growing 50+ population.

The NAHB adds that 50+ homes are often found in vibrant locations and social-engaged communities and often include amenities like nature trails, pools and recreation centers. Many use design elements that promote low-stress living and include special features like an extra bedroom suite for guests and accessible kitchens, bathrooms and gardens.

While some baby boomers want the convenience of maintenance-free living after years of tending to the daily responsibilities of their current homes others like the idea of living in a place designed for their generation where people with shared interests come together – especially if their current neighborhood is changing as familiar faces are moving out.

The NAHB has found that many residents in active adult communities are still working or recently retired and enjoy amenities like pools, recreation centers, social events, hiking trails, tennis courts and nearby restaurants and shopping. For many 50+ households, this can be an affordable option to downsize to a smaller home that still allows them to “age in place” comfortably with that true sense of community.

I’m going to be completely honest here. From the very first time I visited a maintenance-free community, I was sold on the concept. Now that my mom has made her move to maintenance-free, she honestly wonders why she didn’t do it years ago. That sentiment echoes the attitude of anyone I’ve come into contact with after they chose to downsize in a maintenance-free community that was right for them.

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