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By our sheer numbers and interests, Baby Boomers are destined to change retirement forever. Many of us will continue to work; others will "downshift" or move to the Sun Belt. Find help with your dream here.
Boomers Want to Age in Place

It appears that for the most part, people age 55 and over are happy with their current homes. Home builders hoping to entice this group into purchasing or building new homes when they reach traditional retirement age may find that such a demand simply does not exist.


As a natural result, there will be ample opportunities for home remodelers in the future, as Baby Boomers increasingly decide to age-in-place and will subsequently have to modify their current homes in order to address their aging needs.


According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), by 2012, 40% of all U.S. households will be 55 or older and it projects that the nation’s 55+ population will grow at well over 2% annually for the next decade, reaching 85 million by 2014.


The 55+ market is an important focus of the nation’s housing industry as Baby Boomers approach traditional retirement age. But builders hoping to entice households into new homes will probably be disappointed because older Americans, by and large, are happy with where they currently live. This finding was made when the NAHB study considered both the personal desires and trends of this population as well as their home and community characteristics. Based on this data, the study determined the probability of Baby Boomers leaving their current homes, and the factors which influenced their decision to stay.


People who are 55+ are less likely to move and buy/build new homes and more likely to age-in-place because most of these households feel satisfied with their homes and the communities in which they live. According to the most recent American Housing Survey (AHS), 55+ households (on average) rated the overall satisfaction with their current home as 8.6 out of 10.


Also, nearly half of all households in the 55 to 64 age bracket rated their community as 9 on the same 10 point satisfaction scale. The survey also showed that positive responses increased with age, as nearly 60% of households age 75 and older rated satisfaction with their community as 9 out of 10. In addition, more than three-quarters of the 55 to 64 age group responded with a community satisfaction rating of 8 or higher. This opinion poll again shows that older home owners simply want to remain in their current residences and communities and are verifiably less likely to move. In fact, the survey even shows that as they grow older, their desire to age-in-place actually increases.


The NAHB study noted that, “This is consistent with the low incidence of community dis-amenities reported by older households and suggests that developers of age-qualified housing intended for older residents have a substantial hurdle to overcome in attracting these residents away from their current neighborhoods.”


Upon looking further into the study’s findings, the abundant opportunities for home remodeling are increased even more when this population’s future physical needs are factored in. For example, in the single-family home market, nearly 36% of households in the 55 to 64 age group reported having difficulty in at least one physical activity.


These difficulties break-down into the following areas: difficulty in dressing (9%); vision or hearing difficulty (11%); difficulty in going out (12%); difficulty in walking, reaching, lifting, carrying, climbing stairs or getting around the house (27%); difficulty in remembering (13%); and difficulty in working (24%). Plus, more than 45% of those age 65 to 74 and 70% of households age 75 or older reported difficulty in at least one activity. Thus, the need for home remodelers is obvious as people with ever changing physical demands are increasingly deciding to age-in-place and will, in turn, require more and more, necessary home modifications in the future.


Here are some additional statistics which support the conclusion that 55+ households wish to remain in their current homes:


  • In a recent study by the NAHB and AARP on the housing preferences of seniors age 50+, a safe neighborhood was identified as the most important characteristic for their community. 96% of those surveyed cited the high importance of safety, and 92% felt that they lived in a safe community;
  • According to the 2005 Current Population Survey, less than 5% of people age 55+ moved within the United States;
  • The average income of households in both single-family detached homes and multifamily housing decreased with age. This trend subsequently makes remodeling a more attractive and affordable option for older home owners;
  • Nearly 12% of 55+ households living in single-family detached homes and nearly 7% of those in multifamily homes reported working from home. This was an increase over prior AHS results.


Overall, the data speaks volumes about the growing need for licensed and trained aging-in-place specialist to help Baby Boomers adequately achieve their desire to remain in their current homes. Home remodelers have an historic opportunity and duty to allow this large demographic to remain comfortable and happy within their homes while simultaneously helping them cope with their changing physical needs.


By Harry Burns, CAPS


Harry Burns, a Certified Aging-in-Place specialist, is founder of Home Evolutions LLC (http://www.homeevolutions.com/) which provides customized, high-quality building and remodeling services for people with disabilities and older adults wishing to maintain their independence. His company specializes in assessment, modification, design/build and maintenance services.

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