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Downsizing in style: Why baby boomers are moving into senior housing even before they retire

downsizing, baby boomers, senior housing

There are more than 78 million baby boomers in the United States, and more than 10,000 of them turn 65 every day. And while many are content to “age in place,” millions of boomers are moving to senior housing early. In fact, 16 percent of buyers aged 59-67 moved into senior-related housing in 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). That number, of course, is expected to grow over the next few decades.

If you’re thinking of downsizing and exploring your senior housing options, here are insights you can use as you make your move.

Boomers are choosing senior housing long before they retire

Baby boomers have always been leaders of the counter-culture, and they will continue to march to the beat of their own drums as they age. In the past, we’ve referred to senior housing as “retirement communities” but in the case of boomers, they are often moving to these communities long before they retire.

Recent stats from the Insured Retirement Institute may explain why:

  • Only 27 percent of baby boomers (currently aged 52-70) are confident they have enough money saved for retirement
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  • 28 percent of baby boomers say they will retire after age 70

It makes sense that boomers, who may be living in homes much too large for their current needs, may want to downsize early so they can be in a better position for retirement over the long-term.

The most popular option: Senior-related housing in the suburbs

According to the NAR, more than 57 percent of purchased senior housing in 2015 was in the suburbs and nearly two-thirds of these purchases were detached single-family homes.

In most cases, single-family homes that meet senior housing criteria can simply be homes that better fit the lifestyle of a person as they age over time. In some cases, they may be within subdivisions or other communities that cater specifically to aging populations.

Here are some common features of senior-related housing:  

  • One-level design, with minimal steps from garage and all entries
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  • Large hallways, kitchens and bathrooms to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers
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  • Wheelchair ramp accessibility
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  • Easy-to-open windows

While boomers may not need these features now, they know that in the future their mobility may change — and having laundry on the main floor will be an important factor in maintaining their independence.

The rise of “resort-style” senior housing

While single-family homes with senior living features are the most common option for downsizing boomers, nearly 20 percent chose to purchase townhomes, duplexes or condos last year, according to the NAR.

These homes likely have similar features to their single-family home counterparts, such as one-story living and larger hallways. However, one growing trend is the idea of “resort-style living,” which offers boomers a greater sense of community (and a lot more planned activities) than if they lived in a traditional neighborhood.

Here are some common features of “resort-style” senior living:  

  • 24-hour concierge services
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  • Restaurant-quality dining
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  • Salons and fitness facilities
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  • Outdoor walkways and ponds
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  • Pet accommodations
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  • Daily group activities and outings

Some have likened these new active senior communities to life on a cruise ship but they also resemble a posh college dorm. With a la carte services, these communities can also help boomers stay on a budget that expands as they need more assistance. For example, a first-year resident may cook all her own meals and enjoy free brisk walks along community trails, while an older resident may purchase all her meals in the dining hall and have in-home care attendants check on her twice daily.

This kind of flexibility is likely appealing to boomers, many of whom have seen how the needs of their parents changed as they aged. By selecting one community that can accommodate them in varying stages, boomers can retain a vibrant and busy life on their own terms — a quality that has defined this generation for decades.

Looking to downsize or explore your options?

There are a plethora of options when it comes to senior housing, and many new communities and developments are reframing what retirement looks like. Reach out today to be put in touch with an expert who can help you assess your finances and select the best housing option for you over the next few decades.

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