RETIREMENT LIVING: WHAT BOOMERS WANT
Retirement Living and Housing Costs
Those who are entering retirement are finding that senior housing costs are rising. This is especially true in strong real-estate markets like California. In California, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has allowed the cap on subsidized senior rents to increase by 11% per year. There have also been price increases in the market as a whole.
The senior housing market, by the way, is a large one. Over 7.5 million American households had someone age 80 or older living in them in 2016. That’s a 71% jump from the 4.4 million who were there in 1990. The number of households in this category, moreover, is expected to more than double by 2037.
In part, rising housing costs are the result of members of the baby boomers generation simply living longer than before. Thus more senior housing is required. That’s not the whole story, however.
What Boomers Want
A longer lifespan often means that seniors retain their health and vitality into retirement. Additionally, boomers have different attitudes about aging and retirement than their parents and grandparents did. Many of them want to remain as active and engaged with others as possible. That means the old-fashioned no-frills assisted living facility with its isolation and seclusion won’t do.
Happy Retirement and Urban Environments
Access to resources is often easier in urban environments, and some of the best living arrangements for boomers are in such environments. They provide proximity to libraries, media centers, parks, public transport, and other amenities.
Such housing can, of course, be built from scratch. It’s also possible, however, to remodel existing living space to make it easier for seniors to manage and to make it more suitable for activities like entertaining grandchildren.
Staying Where You Are
Many seniors including members of the baby boomer generation would rather stay where they are than move to a setting ostensibly more suitable for someone of their age. The value “aging in community,” and they have a point. The isolation that can come from losing touch with friends and neighbors can pose a greater health risk than smoking or obesity. It also makes dementia twice as likely.
When boomers age in place, a sharing economy where those who are able to take care of various services can make the option financially viable. It can reinforce that all-important sense of community as well.
Retirement and Assisted Living
For some boomers, assisted living will eventually be the preferred if not the only option. After all, everyone’s health fails eventually. For such elders, a multistep approach that encompasses the move from full independence to fully assisted living can ease the transition. It can also help if the stations along the way are all on the same campus.
In any case, to satisfy many a boomer, an assisted living arrangement will need to provide socialization, stimulation, and as much independence as possible. Access to the outdoors, online learning, and the chance to visit other places around the city can all be beneficial.
In times past, seniors have had their retirement options limited by financial constraints. Some developments demanded big upfront payments from people who might well anticipate needing to move on to similarly expensive nursing homes within a few years. Meanwhile, the cost of long-term care insurance kept going up. That meant that when the senior needed the nursing home, it was unaffordable. The elder ended up moving back in with his family, even when they were ill-prepared for that arrangement.
To some degree, these issues persist. Innovations in elder care are helping, however.
Looking to Europe
Most gerontology experts would agree that the US could learn a lot about elder care from Europe. In the Netherlands, for example, there’s a pilot program that pairs seniors seeking roommates with college students who need one too. In the same country, there’s a memory-care village. This is an indoor-outdoor community providing innovative care for dementia sufferers. We can expect American developers to look to projects like these for inspiration as they seek to meet the needs of retiring boomers in the coming years.