For decades, developers and urban planners have been anticipating the retirement years of wealthy baby boomers often focusing on demographic and geographic research. Boomers have always been known for blazing a new trail, and there’s no reason that wouldn’t hold true when it comes to planning their retirement years. It’s the psychographic changes of the generation that are now having the biggest impact on residential real estate in ways that are overturning conventional assumptions and redirecting amenity and service programs throughout the country. Here’s a look at five trends that can no longer be ignored:
1. Modern Homes: Most boomers have “been there, done that” with older homes that have history and character. They want modern appliances, energy-efficient doors and windows, spacious kitchens, and an open floor plan with fresh, new décor. There’s a renewed focus on simplicity in life, removing clutter in every way possible, especially interior design.
2. Local Culture: Baby boomers are rejecting cookie-cutter communities of the past and looking to local culture. They want to be surrounded by relaxed, authentic and diverse communities where experiences are more important than facilities.
3. Farm-to-Table: Fresh and healthy – the boomer generation wants seasonal eating habits, based on what is in peak harvest locally. This guarantees that the food is delivering the fuel for their active lifestyle. This movement is aiding in production of food locally and in turn boosting the economy with homegrown small business.
4. Walkable Neighborhoods: Park the car and hit the sidewalk….boomers are seeking the added convenience of walkable neighborhoods in the heart of vibrant downtown areas. When they were kids they lived on a block with a grocery store down the street and restaurant on the corner. Now, it’s a health-food store down the street and a coffee house with Wi-Fi on the corner.
5. No Retirement Communities: According to the Merrill Lynch survey, only about 10 percent of baby boomers say they want to move to any kind of retirement or age-restricted community. They instead want to stay independent in privately owned homes and live an energized, adventurous and simple life among their friends. If they do need help with personal care, they want those services to come to their home.
Baby boomer families come in all shapes and sizes — they do not represent a single type of individual or family unit. They range from age 40s to 60s with growing population of singles and many multi-generation households. For the boomers it’s not about keeping up with the Jones any longer, it’s about meeting the Jones to have a good time.
Savvy community developers recognize the trend and are shifting gears. Alteza above the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio is promoting its proximity to Hemisfair Park more than the building’s amenities. Schooner Bay in the Bahamas boasts a hydroponic garden on-site to provide fresh produce to its restaurants. Cresswind Communities by Kolter Homes is focusing on outdoor amenities, wellness centers and nature trails at many of their communities throughout the Southeast. Hiking trails and scenic vistas are integrated into the landscape of Ventana in Asheville, North Carolina.
It’s a new day for residential developers. For property owners of existing communities developed for the previous generation, it’s time to take a hard look at the master plan. It’s critical to be proactive when retrofitting amenities and services to satisfy the psychographic of the baby boomer market and create sustainable long-term success.