A New Direction for Senior Housing

Home builders are currently facing a rapidly emerging demographic that has forced the housing industry to begin shifting away from traditional forms of real estate development into methods that cater specifically to the needs of seniors. According to the United States Census Bureau, 100 million U.S. citizens, or a third of the country’s population, will be 50 years or older by the year 2010. Many of these seniors and retiring Baby Boomers are now starting to transition from larger homes in which they have resided for years into more manageable accommodations. Consequently, real estate developers are currently scrambling to provide housing that meets the need of the Baby Boomer generation.

Home builders are not only adjusting due to the massive size of the senior population on the horizon, but also because of the significant purchasing power of this blossoming demographic. The younger generations that the housing industry has focused its efforts on in recent years have been relatively poor in saving their earnings and liberal with financing their homes. Conversely, seniors generally maintain strict personal finance principals whereby wages are saved and any debt is paid down as quickly as possible. Therefore, while many younger homeowners are using the bulk of their earnings to pay heavily leveraged home mortgages, many Baby Boomers are preparing to utilize their savings and the equity in their current homes to purchase the residences in which they plan to retire.

The housing industry is also embracing a shift away from the traditional assisted-living facilities into communities that offer seniors more independence and freedom. Boomers are frequently relocating into planned-unit developments (PUDs) and gated communities where regular dues are paid to a governing Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that provides for many of the amenities that they require. HOA’s will often maintain a homeowner’s yard, roof, and home exterior, while also providing for utilities, security and common areas that can include pools, clubhouses, golf courses, tennis courts, walking trails and community activities.

Other developments address many seniors’ desire to live near people with similar interests at a comparable stage in life by limiting homeownership to those over a certain age. These retirement communities also often offer a neighborhood grocery store, a pharmacy, restaurants, and more community involvement and activities that can help with the eventual transition to assisted-living facilities. Seniors have become increasingly attracted to communities that offer the convenience, mobility, amenities and freedom to maintain rich and active lifestyles as opposed to the institutional and more sterile environments provided by the more traditional models of senior housing facilities.

In terms of home features, a recent survey conducted by the Internet Home Alliance Research Council revealed that 63% of seniors have home offices in their new homes, while an amazing 70% have broadband internet access at home. The days of studio apartment-style senior living are on the wane as the vast majority of our aging population is looking to the increased square footage offered in homes with at least two bedrooms and full-sized kitchens. These findings clearly evidence the desire of seniors to maintain their connection with the world and further prolong their preferred lifestyles.

It is clear that seniors and Baby Boomers are expecting longer lives and better health and mobility than previous generations. As a result, the housing industry will need to continue to adapt in order to provide these very important segments of the population with housing that will foster the environments and lifestyles these groups require.


About The Author

Brian S. Icenhower, Esq., BS, JD, CRB, CRS, ABR, a California Association of Realtors Director, practicing real estate attorney, a real estate expert witness and litigation consultant, a prosecution consultant of Tulare County District Attorney Real Estate Fraud. He may be contacted at bicenhower@icenhowerrealestate.com, or www.icenhowerrealestate.com.

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
  • St. Barnabas Senior Services

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