While we knew that boomer women weren’t contemplating anything traditionally identified as “retirement,” we were surprised to learn something important about their thoughts about single homeownership: They aren’t going anywhere.
In our recent survey, only a third of the boomer women we questioned said they plan to move to a new home in the next 10 years. Another third said that they plan to remain right where they are, and a final third remains unsure.
And it’s clear that they aren’t considering moves for the reasons their parents did at the same age, or for the reasons many marketers seem to think. Of those who plan a move in the next decade, 30 percent want to try out a new city, another 30 percent want a house and yard that are easier to maintain and 17 percent want to be closer to their family.
Only 8 percent said they were contemplating a move for health-related reasons, a strong indication of how many want to move to places selling health assistance or benefits. And only 1 percent said they were preparing to move in with other family members — a sharp reminder that even the oldest boomer is hardly infirm.
What should the housing industry be selling boomer women, who (married or not) will be driving any decisions about a move?
First, they should sell convenience and urban settings. Thirty-five percent said that they would be interested in a condo or patio home, and 25 percent expressed an interest in more urban settings. But the housing industry should also start exploring shared living options.
Among boomers, there’s a lot more interest in communal living (14 percent) than transitional or assisted living (8 percent), and interest in the former category is growing fast.
One respondent described what she loves about communal living: “We helped to create a co-housing community. We are 34 townhomes with both shared and private gardens, chickens and solar panels. I love that we have our own beautiful home that is very energy efficient and has great daylight, but are also part of a community of people that I really know. My neighbors include 92-year-old Meg across the walkway and 3-year-old August down the way.”
As for amenities, the vibrant boomer woman wants the same things that younger adults seek: parks and green space (24 percent), on-site parking and pet-friendliness (19 percent) and walking distance to shopping and cultural activities (18 percent). Fitness centers and swimming pools rank lower for this generation, who remain active and are seeking fulfillment from the same places (such a gyms) and as younger adults.
We asked respondents what their “ideal living situation” looked like, and the common threads in their responses offer home builders, developers, urban planners and the real estate industry a lot to chew on:
1. A smaller house. Generally, the boomer woman’s ideal is either a cottage or ranch house.
2. A sunroom or protected outdoor seating space (depending on the climate).
3. Privacy. Whether it means having some protected space outdoors that neighbors can’t see or living on a five-acre lot, the boomer woman is not generally ready to live on top of someone else.
4. Trees and space to garden. Whether they seek “a fenced yard with plenty of space for flowers and other plants, blueberry, raspberry and strawberries and apple trees” or “just a bit of dirt,” the boomer woman wants to grow things in her own garden.
5. Space for pets. They want lots of space for their pets (and it needs to be fenced separately from the garden).
For the third of boomer women (or more) who aren’t moving, the renovation and landscaping industries should be thinking about how to offer her this ideal now. For those who are contemplating a move, the housing industry may be investing in (or selling her) the wrong features.
Either way, these results remind us once again that real boomers (whose average age is only 53) still live a long way from where the housing industry (still confusing them with their “senior” parents) thinks they are.
Stephen Reily is the founder and CEO of VibrantNation.com, the leading site for women 50+. In addition to being Vibrant Nation’s CEO, he is an entrepreneur, marketing expert and VibrantNation.com Flash Forward Blogger. VibrantNation.com is an online community for the fast-growing demographic of smart and successful women over 50.