The Stay-Put Generation
Forty more years of being 40 pretty much sums up the attitude of baby boomers, says Jeanne Anthony, senior project manager in AARP’s education and outreach department.
In a survey of 2,000 homeowners age 45 to 65, AARP discovered that while 80% of them have definite ideas about remaining in their current homes for at least 10 years, they aren’t actively planning for how their homes will accommodate them as they age and as their families grow or contract. “Boomers already have chronic illnesses and are starting to slow down a little — but are not admitting it,” Anthony says.
The chart shows boomers’ responses to questions about their current homes and the features that are lacking — a great insight for remodelers to learn about potential modifications. No-step entries, wider doorways, and bedrooms and full baths that are accessible without climbing stairs are projects for which remodelers will likely be needed.
But Anthony suggests being proactive: vary counter heights, plan for grab bars by sheathing bathroom walls with plywood, and stack closets so you can convert them later to elevator shafts. “Make these practices part of your routine.”
No one wants to be reminded that they are aging or that they may face health complications in the future. AARP’s survey found that the terms “universal design” and “aging in place” were either vague or had negative connotations.
A new perception is needed. AARP is working to coin the term “better living design,” since many of the features of these design principles are meant to help people of all ages, and they are transparent.
“If you have a no-step entry,” Anthony says, “it’s not going to register with a visitor that they just walked in without climbing stairs.”
While there may be some individuals for whom an illness will mean certain “institutional” features in their home, for the most part, the new view marries style with function and can accommodate any price point: no-step shower entry, attractive grab bars, a sink under which a wheelchair can fit, enough space between features to allow for wheelchair transfers.
Anthony suggests educating with visuals that clients can understand. “It would help to ensure that livability features become standard, since consumers don’t know to ask for them,” she says.
Families are continually growing and contracting. Now a poor job market has many college graduates moving back home, and fewer homes are being formed by young adults.
“We think this trend is going to increase,” Anthony says. “Wouldn’t [clients] like a way for [their grown children] to be on their own in [the client’s] home?”
People of various ethnicities and cultures, too, are interested in having space for aging relatives. And there is a “certain percentage of grandparents raising children.”
All of which lead to different opportunities for remodelers. Universal design features support people of all ages, Anthony points out.
“What I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence”
5% Neutral/Don’t know
Source: AARP Survey: Home and Community Preferences of the 45+ Population, September 2010
“These community aspects are important to me”
39% being near good schools
32% being near work
65% being near where one wants to go
66% being near friends and/or family
46% being near somewhere where it’s easy to walk
48% being near church or social organizations
21% being near transit (bus or rail)
15% live with their siblings
2% live with their grandchildren
60% live with their spouse or partner
30% live with their children less than 18 years of age
15% live with their children more than 18 years of age
25% live with their parents or their in-laws
Source: AARP Survey: Multi-Generational Housing Patterns, 2009
High numbers of AARP survey respondents will likely modify their homes in the next five years — more work for remodelers. Educate clients with visuals to help them understand the potential of “better living design.”
Source: AARP Boomer Housing Survey, 2011