By now we are all somewhat aware of the fact that millions of Americans are living longer and healthier lives. Given that the 65 and over population is expected to increase from approximately 35 million in 2000 to 55 million in 2020, a lot of time and energy spent on understanding and identifying what the Boomers needs and desires might be regarding their homes. Remodelers, aging in place specialists, caregivers and occupational therapists among others have all joined forces in preparing for this coming Silver Tsunami.
Understanding the changing needs and wants of the aging Boomer generation (those born between 1946 to 1964) will play a critical role in the success or failure of many businesses and industries in the foreseeable future. This generation’s defining desires–to stay in their home as long as possible and ensure the maximum independence possible–will be right up there on their list of wants. The planning behind these needs will have a direct impact on the happiness and fruitfulness of their lives.
For all of us–perfectly healthy or otherwise–our ability to conduct simple daily tasks like cooking and bathing (with safety and efficiency) has a direct effect on our sense of happiness and independence.
Additionally, for some of us who are perhaps just shy of the Boomer generation, or who might have parents that are getting older and might worry about their safety (slipping and falls, getting up stairs), we need to familiarize ourselves with the tools and alternatives out there to help them. Eventually, many if not all of our lives will be touched by a loved one facing a change in mobility and ambulatory consideration, cognitive awareness or simply temporary disability (not always due to aging either!).
How Big is the Aging in Place Market?
- 89% of people 50+ wish to remain in their own homes indefinitely (AARP)*
- 75% of remodelers have seen an increase in requests for aging in place work (NAHB)**
- 60% of remodelers already perform aging in place work (NAHB)
- Over half of all 55+ households rate their current home a 9 or 10 out of 10 (American Housing Survey)
- The aging population is the number two issue to affect the remodeling industry over the next five years, only behind the availability of skilled labor (NAHB)
At least 20% of Americans are impacted by functional limitations and almost 60 million have some sort of permanent disability. The design or remodeling of homes should start to translate these realities into actual functional and aesthetically-pleasing spaces.
In my opinion, it is unconscionable for any design professional to not take this opportunity to educate the home owner on the ideas and principles of aging in place. They should also pay keen attention to how it will address and provide for the home owners future demands for the space–not simply their current ones.
Home owners are investing good money in their homes and should be informed that this expenditure, with a slightly modified way of thinking and philosophy in approach, can also comfortably, stylishly and safely serve their possible changing needs over time.
What Should Be Considered When Remodeling For Aging in Place?
- A low-maintenance exterior
- Landscape /curb appeal design that considers possible location of future needed ramp(s)
- Zero threshold entry to the home with some sort of entry canopy or overhang
- No change in levels on the main floor
- An open floor plan, especially in the kitchen/dining area
- Varying heights for eating in kitchen design
- Multi functional and possibly adjustable height millwork and storage areas
- Placement of appliances with universal accessibility in mind
- A master bedroom & bath on the ground floor.
- Stacking closets for a future elevator shaft
- Non-slip flooring in all pathways (if not all areas)
- Wider doorways (minimum 3’ doors)
- Lever-style door handles throughout
- Bright lighting in all areas especially places like stairway landings
- Handrails at all steps (if the home has them)
- Multiple sources for lighting to reduce glare and shadows
- Contrasting colors for depth perception in counter and flooring selections and design
- Grab bars (or at least blocking in walls where they might be needed in the future)
- Higher-seat toilets
What is the purchasing power of Boomers?
According to industry studies, Boomers control 80% of all the money in savings in the United States and about 75% of all privately held financial assets at any time–regardless of value of those portfolios. As such, this 1/3 of the nation’s population controls 2/3 of the total spending capital and disposal income!
Also keep in mind that even in a tough real estate market, such improvements and modifications may in fact appeal to potential buyers since such home will provide a longer stay. Owning such homes will also make it possible for buyers to address age-related disabilities of visiting older relatives, and make it easier for some to care for live-in parents (known as “sandwich” households).
A recent NAHB survey found that “Seventy percent of homeowners started remodeling projects for aging-in-place because they were planning ahead for such future needs.”
Boomers have defined the mass consumer market trends for the last 40 to 50 years. With their financial clout and their generation’s distinctive sense of self and style, they will continue to drive what sells and what is in demand in the years to come.
About the Author: Raad Ghantous is the principal of Raad Ghantous & Associates and is an expert in luxury hospitality, wellness centers, and medical & day spa developments. He is also the owner of Your Home For A Lifetime, an A.D.A/ Barrier-free/ Universal design/Aging in place, full service design/build firm with over 15 years of experience specializing in developing integrating elegant and seamless designs/modifications to new or existing structures.