Boomers’ Return to Urbanism
The housing industry is being pulled in different directions, as two of the largest age cohorts of our time—millennials and boomers—compete for urban accommodations.
While boomers control the vast majority of economic wealth in this country, millennial buyers now account for 36% of U.S. home purchases, compared with 34% of homes going to boomers, according to Dan DiClerico at the National Association of Home Builders’ annual conference this year.
But don’t count boomers out. Many boomers are choosing to downsize from their suburban single family homes to urban apartments. This exchange is appealing for many reasons: it fills the desire to be closer to retail stores, entertainment, and health services, and apartments often come with added amenities and little to no maintenance.
Beyond access and convenience, boomers are looking to optimize quality of life, not just simplify. A recent study conducted by Zipcar reported that 55% of urban boomers surveyed felt their lives were more exciting and carefree, while 42% reported they had attended a local community event and 23% reported taking on a new hobby. So, is life made up of the sum of our experiences? Or can the experiences that are still to come have a profound impact on our life? It seems to be the latter, as we watch boomers embrace their golden years with gusto.
In recent years, science has determined that the gift of longevity is largely driven by lifestyle, not solely by genetics. Having a purpose and being socially connected, physically active, financially secure, and engaged in the community are some dimensions of the wellbeing index developed by Gallup-Healthways. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is designed to provide a daily measure, determining the correlation between the places where people work and the communities in which they live, and how it impacts their wellbeing. One argument is that many of the factors measure by the index can be influenced by urban surroundings.
If lifestyle and factors surrounding wellbeing significantly affect our later years, what does this mean for the seniors housing and care industry? One innovator, Smart Living 360, is flipping the traditional seniors housing model upside down. The company is imagining a community placed in the middle of everything, where residents can easily walk to restaurants, grocery stores, different services, and metro . . . and as a result, the community creates an intergenerational environment of all ages. In addition, Smart Living 360’s proposed operating model supports lifestyle and health services delivered on an as-needed basis.
“A change in location, a change in the operating model, and a change in the service delivery . . . in this we aspire to see the ability to deliver something that is more attractive and less expensive to the consumer,” stated Ryan Frederick, founder and CEO of Smart Living 360, during a recent interview with NIC. “This model has the prospect of increasing the penetration rate in our field, which has been stagnant for the past several years, hovering around the 10% range, with 1 in 10 individuals over the age of 75 seeking out some form of senior housing.”
As more and more empty nesters hit the restart button on their newly redefined life of freedom, the trend to flock to urban settings will continue. The industry just needs to be prepared to meet the demand with a product that suits their social and physical needs.
This is a time of experimentation, a time of innovation, and a time in which the seniors housing and care industry can create a product that meets the growing demands of the aging population in a way that embraces overall wellbeing.