Baby boomers are leading the charge when it comes to “aging in place,” that is, the practice of growing older in their current home rather than downsizing or moving to a planned community. For many, the idea of buying one home for life rather than a particular season makes sense both financially and emotionally, especially when that home is new construction to start with.
Builders are smart to focus on this small but growing contingent of buyers. The Baby Boomer generation is the largest in history and its buyers are just beginning to look for what they hope will be their final home purchase. Here are some ways to build homes people can gracefully grow old in.
Look Into Layout
For many reasons, master-on-main designs are the most popular home layout for new builds. For an aging population, especially, this configuration means less stairs to hassle with and easier access for caregivers if the need should ever arise. A laundry room on the same level as the master is always appreciated, too. The layout of a new build is as important as any other single feature.
Focus on Flex
Flex spaces aren’t just sought after by families. Older generations see a ‘flex’ space and imagine an office for now, a home gym for later, and then a playroom for grandkids. For most people it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect a decade or more down the road, so having square footage that can transition with their needs is always welcome.
Cater to Comfort
It will always be difficult to sell a home built for an “older” buyer to a younger version of themselves. Avoid obvious amenities like an automatic staircase chair or handrails in the bathtub, but think about the small touches that might make gradually aging into a home easier. Hardwood floors in the kitchen, for example, are easier on the joints.
Ditch the Dimmers
Most people’s eyesight naturally degrades as they age, so installing a lot of powerful overhead lights – with optionality – from the get to can be a boon for builders. Recessed can lights in addition to fan/overheads can provide brightness without taking away from the current design of a home. Older buyers also tend to gravitate to lots of natural light which is both easier on the eyes and free.
Invest in Eventualities
Most people don’t buy a home imagining they’ll need to modify it to suit their needs as they age. But building features into a home that can pay off long-term is a smart strategy to attract maybe-movers; think: a pre-wired elevator shaft that can be used as a closet for now, or in-wall wiring for a security system that can be turned into an emergency response system down the road.
When building for the aging buyer it’s important to consider the way people want to see themselves. Most people don’t actually feel ‘older,’ even when they are, so discreetly building to their needs will appeal both to their forethought as well as their desire to stay young. Homes to grow old in aren’t all that different from other homes…they’re just better thought out.