The times are changing – just ask boomers. Just when is the survey glass half-full or half-empty? According to a June survey from The Hartford and MIT AgeLab, “50 percent of boomers want to stay in their current home as they age, but most have no plans in place.” Hold on there, just a second, that means HALF of them want to move! How interesting and how antithetical to aging in place! But it was just a year ago that AARP surveyed the 45+ population and found that "almost three-quarters of Baby Boomers ages 45 and older – and effectively nine in ten people 65+ – said they want to stay in their current homes for as long as possible.” That was then and this is now.
Aging in some other place. What pulls folks up and out? “The Hartford/MIT survey of adults ages 46-65 found that being close to family is the No. 1 factor in deciding where to live as they age. Feeling comfortable in their home and affordability were other important factors.” Although the family theme is prominant, one might speculate that job prospects and necessary or optional self-reinvention may also matter. As USA Today recently noted, Baby Boomers are Making the Most of their Second Acts, pursuing new jobs, education, and arguably, the regions in which those can be found. Imagine a world in which the kids are gone and boomers are stuck in the burbs in a large house, too much lawn to mow, high taxes and/or a future without transportation options – instead of aging in the SAME place, baby boomers might just exit -- triangulating among options for jobs, proximity to relatives, and regional appeal.
Location-based searches: from this old house to whereever... Today there's a college selection consultant, a geriatric care services locator, and geographical job search tools lined up to provide online or paid guidance. You put in something or other and out pop suggestions. How about a boomer best place locator -- put in 3-4 attributes, rank them and voilà! Test the readiness of a home to sell or rent (especially in slumped real estate markets). Offer up a personalized tool in which you enter the zip codes of where the kids (or cousins, siblings, or other family) are based, and out pops a map of locations with an overlay of clusters of (even part-time) job opportunities or college (re)training programs. Allow additional factors to be added -- like population age segments, services, recreation and cultural choices. Perhaps the remodel opportunity is not to make a home ready for aging in place, but rather is to help baby boomers make their homes appealing to buyers and renters who need the schools, recreation, and support systems that may linger within the demographics of a region, thus enabling them to age in some other place.
...Enriched by our brave new online world. In a world in which 50% of baby boomers want to be some place else, let's add in one last factor -- can they connect? Hopefully a full set of relatives are in somebody’s online video picture, since at least 50% of baby boomers have at least one living parent. Our society will increasingly be a distributed world – adult kids and grandchildren here, boomer parents there, other aging relatives in the 55+ and beyond communities. And let's not forget zip code searches for availability of senior housing for that fastest growing demographic of the oldest old, the 85+. For baby boomers, it doesn’t quite seem like Real Estate Locator, Career Builder, or even Google searches will be enough. Throw in a (low-cost/high speed) Internet service locator, zip code availability of geek support, home office supply stores, and last but not least, sprinkle in community-supported online Newcomer Clubs.