Mid-century. Much like the architecture of this vintage, the people of this era have distinctive characteristics and lifestyles. Over 76 million in America alone, these “Baby Boomers,” or mid-centurians, hope to remain active through their 2nd and 3rd careers. They prefer to stay in their own homes, and keep involved in cultural and social aspects of their community.
The implications for the construction industry are significant. These are not Del Webb retirement community folks. Retirement communities are more likely to be infill projects, near transportation, university or neighborhood retail centers. Small homes or townhouses blended into mixed generation or co-housing developments. City governments could support this trend for urban revitalization projects.
Space design needs to consider adaptive re-use. Retirement homes are decreasing in footprint, but the trend is toward larger informal entertainment spaces and improved audio/ visual capabilities. In my own remodel project, the dining room can be converted to an office, and the powder room has an access to the public space, separate from the private quarters of the master bedroom/ bathroom.
Boomers are also planning to age in place. Remodels need to include provisions for single level access and universal design, with wider hallways, bracing in the walls for handrails. Wide showers, and radiant heat on the floor. On my main floor, I pre-plumbed and vented for a stack washer & dryer in the master bathroom. The basement is ready to be split into a separate apartment, for renters, live-in kids, or caretakers.
But above all, remodels or new construction must be built well. No leaks, no air drafts, no failures due to bad construction. We may be mid-centurians now – but hope to live for many more years. The last thing we want to do is paint, repair, fix. Especially the exterior building materials should be durable and require little maintenance. AND – we want clean indoor air, and energy efficient houses as insurance against an increasingly polluted world and rising oil prices.
Boomers have always expected the best. Can the industry deliver?