Baby Boomers Dominate New Housing Trends

By Karen Nakamura Posted in: BIA

The largest American generation is either retired or quickly nearing retirement age. Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 and who number more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they definitely are not ready to head to the retirement home!

The boomer generation is more active than generations past, has a more sophisticated style and wants options in their homes. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier pastures or staying put and redesigning to accommodate their retired lifestyle, boomers are making an impact on new housing trends. Some features that home builders and remodelers are seeing as they begin to cater to the boomers include:

• Home Offices: Some boomers are choosing to work past the age of 65. As they transition from a traditional 9-to-5 job, however, they want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminate the hassle of commuting while keeping them active and bringing in supplementary income.

• Tech / Media Centers: The tech-savvy boomer generation wants top-ofthe-line amenities for their homes such as a media room with surround sound and central control systems, which manage all media sources in one location. The house may include a wireless home network (Wi-Fi), remote control lighting and security features.

• Wider Doors and Hallways: As a person ages, there is a likelihood that use of a wheelchair might become a necessity. Designing a home that is livable now but can transition and be functional as the occupant ages is important to ensure that the home will be a good long-term investment. Wider doors and hallways are useful for moving larger furniture today, and will also be wheelchair-accessible tomorrow.

• Better Lighting / Bigger Windows: To accommodate the need for more lighting as we get older, builders are adding more windows and making them larger to let in more natural light. They also are adding more light fixtures under cabinets and in stairwells. Multiple switches to reduce the number of trips and dimmer controls to eliminate glare are other options.

• First-Floor Bedrooms and Bathrooms: More than 40 percent of new homes have master suites downstairs, a 15 percent increase from more than a decade ago. Boomers not wishing to go up and down stairs with bad knees and aching backs have helped fuel this trend. The bedrooms are also bigger, with larger walk-in closets and bathrooms that have a separate tub, shower and dual sinks.

• Easy to Maintain Exteriors / Landscaping: Yard work, painting and other landscaping chores may no longer be enjoyable to aging homeowners. People who move to a new home when they retire may opt for a maintenance-free community. Those who choose to stay in their homes might make improvements to exterior surfaces such as installing stucco, brick or low-maintenance siding. Lawns are being replaced with living patios, decorative landscaping or flower beds.

• Flex Space: “Flex space” has become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling. Flex spaces are rooms that take on the purpose of the present home owner’s needs but can adjust with changes as they occur. This allows homeowners to stay in their homes longer as it continues to serve their needs throughout life’s stages.

To find a Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH) or Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) in your area, contact Building Industry Association of Hawaii at www.biahawaii.org.

Karen Nakamura is executive vice president / CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.