More than 78 million strong, baby boomers are reaching retirement age (65) at a record pace — 10,000 per day, to be exact, according to the Pew Research Center — and living years longer than previous generations. By the time all the boomers will have turned 65 in 2030, 18 percent of the nation’s population will be at least that age, according to the research center’s projections. Compare that to the population makeup just four years ago, when a little more than 10 percent of Americans were ages 65 and older.
This drastic change in U.S. demographics is creating both challenges and opportunities for home builders and developers as they seek to manage the desires and expectations of this influential segment of the population. Neighborhoods and home designs are evolving to match new lifestyle preferences.
According to multiple experts, boomers’ most prominent predilections fall into three main categories:
• Connection: Whether it be family or neighbors, baby boomers want to form bonds with those around them. The age-old desire to retire alone, away from the noise, is becoming less prevalent as an increasing number of older adults crave connection with their neighbors.
• Convenience: Development features have shifted from the extravagant to the practical as baby boomers desire simplicity and convenience in their busy lifestyles. With many working way beyond retirement age, older adults have less time to keep up with high-maintenance amenities. Larger yards are being replaced with outdoor rooms and bigger patios for entertaining guests. Yard design has shifted from high-maintenance lawns to decorative landscaping or flower beds for gardening enthusiasts.
• Customization: Homes with multi-purpose flex rooms are popular with active boomers who might need office, entertainment or exercise space. Guest casitas and generational suites for “boomeranging” family members are gaining favor. Furthermore, boomers who have spent time caring for elderly parents also are planning ahead for their own age-related issues. Their preferences lean toward single-story layouts, wide doors and accessible bathrooms.
Throughout history, the baby boom generation has redefined popular culture. And, there’s no reason to believe it won’t do the same for its members’ next life phase.
• Andy Warren is president of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the board of directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the board of directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.