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Trends in 50+ Housing

This past Friday I attended a seminar in West Hollywood on 100 Trends in Retirement Housing sponsored by Open Eye Corporation of Beverly Hills.  I was the only Realtor there with the rest being architects, interior designers, developers and operators of seniors housing.  Click>here for some highlights of what is discussed at the seminar.

Before becoming a Realtor in Saratoga I was a real estate developer and custom homebuilder so I still have keen interest in emerging housing trends. As a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), this type of knowledge helps me present a broad conceptual range of residential opportunities to my aging clients and their adult children.

As a Realtor, I am probably unique because of my real estate marketing background and experience as a custom home designer/builder. When I was the President of Homescapes, Inc. my motto was “We Build Your Signature Home”. Now, when assisting buyers, I try to help them discover the home that is right for them or give them the vision of how that existing house could be transformed to their meet their specific needs and desires.

I am also on a special task force, assisting the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council (SASCC) broaden their appeal and finacial support to include the growing generation of baby boomers. There are ideas below that may expand your understanding of changes in generational attitudes that will be necessary for senior (don’t use that word!) centers to survive and thrive.

The seminar presenter, Esmonde Crawley, delighted in pricking the bubble of preconceived notions with his iconoclastic views, born of real life experiences from around the world. Here are some highlights that got my attention:

  • Generational Changes – The over 50’s housing market around the world is in flux. Changing living patterns will alter how new seniors housing must be designed to be successful. Following old models just won’t due any more.
  • Special Interests– Successful niche market developers don’t specifically call their project “seniors housing”. They focus on creating living environments that cater to the distinct, very special interest of their market i.e. lawn bowling enthusiasts, hot rod mechanics, scholars, theater buffs, etc. These are smaller, more specific market segmentations than hobbies such as golf, crafts, bridge, computer, line dancing, etc.
  • Nursing homes – Crawley predicts most of these will convert to specialty medical areas: i.e. drug addiction, bulimia (part of the quasi-medical subsets that are now migrating from hospitals). Crawley exhorted owners of nursing homes should sell within the next 5 years before the gig is up.
  • Alzheimers – This is not a growth industry for institutionalized housing because of anticipated breakthroughs in drug treatment. Crawley urged developers to create all-purpose buildings for the 50+ market because special purpose buildings will become obsolete.
  • Concierge Services – The growth industry will be for “concierge services” to support the family who will provide much of the care for their aging parents.
  • Staying at home – the biggest trend in retirement housing is “staying at home”. The natural tendency for seniors is to want to stay at home!! 95% of seniors remain healthy enough to not need even assisted care or skilled nursing. They already have the support system in the home – neighbors, friends or family, so why take this away and replace it with new friends and unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Aging in Place Remodeling – this is going to be a growth industry as people retrofit their homes for safety and convenience.
  • Multi-Generational Compounds – it is common for many cultures for have three or more generations living under the same roof. This may be an expanding trend in the USA due to economic necessity. Many seniors do not prefer the age-segmented retirement setting and prefer the vitality of having younger children nearby.
  • NORC’sNaturally Occurring Retirement Communities are simply neighborhood housing developments where large concentrations of seniors reside. They are not “purpose built”, but occur as many people age in place. The NORC movement is now in 20 US cities.
  • Multiple Flats – An increasing trend in retirement housing is “gradual retirement” – They sell the larger family home to fund the purchase of a second property and rent an apartment in town where the still work part time. Their new second homes is usually within 2 hours of their primary home and they split 3 days at one and 4 days at another.
  • Foreign Residences – Expect baby boomers, who are endlessly open to new experiences, to move for retirement to foreign countries where cost are lower.
  • Cruise Ships – These are growing as “mobile housing”, particularly for aging widows. “The Cruise boat industry is the fastest grown assisted senior housing operator in the world. ” Twenty percent of all cruises in the USA are booked by single/older women who live most of the year on various cruise ships. Cruise boat companies now design build smaller, inner-boat cabins to lower costs for these cruise perennials who are willing to sleep in small quarters below deck because the receive attention and positive experience topside.
  • Convertible Apartment – Because of anticipated medical advances, the need for “single purpose” designed dementia facilities is expected to evaporate and they will be converted to other uses.
  • Shared High Rise Units – Developers in most cities have vacancies in high rise apartments and are filling them up with seniors whom they mix and match together. The 60+ residents want to revive a student life, avoid lonliness and have a view.
  • Resort Nursing homes will have architectural attention paid to energizing people, creating vitality and providing inspirational and harmonious living spaces.
  • Co-Housing and Eco-Villages – Alternatively, according to the vision of Dr. William Thomas, who has written a book entitled What Are Older People For?, retirement homes optimally should be private residences for 8 to 10 people. His concept is for a caring environment that supports elders and the contributions they can make to their own community, as well as to the larger community in which they live. He sees an international small community of unrelated people who come together “to share the rhythm of daily life and to pursue some noble end.”
  • Franchise Ownership of Assisted Living – A new concept now being fomented by two USA Companies is The leading proponent is Jack West, Founder of Country Place living in Grapevine, Texas. He is pushing assisted living into small towns (pop of 3,000/ 15,000) with a goal of having 400 locations in 5 years.
  • Shopping Mall Granny Centers – Expect to see some senior housing developments in shopping malls where the air rights are cheaper than land costs. Over 70’s are turning their back on respite/Nursing homes/Health centers if they can find a preferred outlet which suits them better. The shopping center is increasingly becoming the social hub and meeting place for all generations. Seniors meet at shopping centers at opening time and use the warm interiors as an exercise yard with coffee and socializing afterwards. Granny Centers are not only marketed to the senior, but are aimed at the “sandwich generation” mother who can now efficiently drop both her mom and the kids off to a single stop. The “sandwich generation”, (born in the second half of boomer cohort), particularly women, juggle between care of their own children and aging parents.
  • Assisted Living Hotels – The trend began in Manhattan during hotel glut where 50 per cent of the rooms were allocated for longer staying older ladies. The hotel atmosphere has appeal; services are available; residents are treated as guests.
  • CCRC’s – Continuous Care Retirment Communities such as The Forum in Cupertino or the Terraces of Los Gatos are typically the last housing move with three tiers: Independent, Assisted Living, and Skilled Nursing (all available on a single campus). They appeal primaily to the “80+ Veteran” generation. Although they require hefty entry fees, they have the marketing advantage that couples are never completely separated regardless of their respective health outcomes.
  • Resort Villages – although they may not be labeled senior housing nor be age restricted, a scenic or recreational setting will appeal to people as they age. Some younger people are buying second home properties in special locations to both use now and for eventual retirement.
  • Active Adult Communities – Dell Webb’s Sun City typify this lifestyle, which is loosing ground to smaller multi-generational environments that cater to the specialty interest of their residents.

Rick Bonetti | APR Referral Network | 408-857-8800 | DRE #01237009