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 count more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they are definitely 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 or staying put and redesigning, boomers are making an impact on new housing trends.

Here are some housing trends that boomers enjoy:

Home offices. Some boomers are working past the age of 65. As they transition from a traditional nine-to-five job, however, they want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminates the hassle of commuting, keeps them active and brings in supplementary income.

• Tech/media centers. The tech-savvy boomer generation wants top-of-the-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. Designing a home that is livable now, but can transition to be functional as the occupant ages is important in ensuring 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. The need for more lighting usually increases as we grow older. To accommodate this, builders are adding more windows and making them larger to let in more natural light. They also are adding more light fixtures in areas including under cabinets and in stairwells.

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 also are bigger, with larger walk-in closets and bathrooms that have a separate tub, shower and dual sinks.

Easy to maintain exteriors/landscaping. Yard work 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 that 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, which can be a hobby for gardening enthusiasts.

Flex space. Flex spaces, which have become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling, are rooms that take on the purpose of the present homeowner’s needs, but can adjust with changes as they occur. What was once a guest bedroom can be redecorated to serve as a hobby room or library.

To find a designated Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH) or Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) builder or remodeler in your area, visit www.biahawaii.org.

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