Evolving Needs of the Baby Boomer Homeowner
There’s a $13 billion-a-year business opportunity for astute remodelers and home improvement suppliers to serve the needs of homeowners age 65 and older, as I’ve written about previously. And the more industry professionals understand this growing opportunity, the greater their chances of earning a share of the business.
Homeowners between the ages of 55 and 64 have an average net worth of around $143,000—and all but $45,000 of that is tied to the value of their house. What’s more, their incomes are typically in the $30,000-$40,000 range, which won’t go very far in an assisted living facility or nursing home—even when combined with limited savings. This makes moving into assisted living cost-prohibitive for many baby boomers. So despite their declining mobility, staying in their current homes is the only feasible option. As a result, the demand for home modifications to facilitate aging-in-place is increasing.
According to HomeAdvisor’s 2016 Aging-in-Place Report, most homeowners over the age of 55 want to make proactive home modifications but will resist any change that makes their home look like an “old person’s house.” Fortunately, there are plenty of both practical and creative upgrades that go beyond the typical grab bars and ramps.
In the kitchen, adding lever-handled door knobs or installing pull-out shelves and lazy Susans in lower cabinets can make things easier to reach at an affordable price. Higher-ticket kitchen retrofits can include countertop height adjustments and appliance reconfigurations, as well as the addition of a smart refrigerator (more on that below). One increasingly popular modification targets aging adults who share their houses with other family members. This modification includes adding more exterior entrances to the home, moving master bedrooms and baths to the first floor, and optimizing gathering spaces for the needs of the specific residents (e.g., a playroom for visiting grandkids).
And then, there is smart home technology. While voice activation is popular among young homeowners, it can also provide valuable enhancements in the homes of active adults. In the kitchen, smart technology can do everything from preheat an oven to keep track of what’s in the refrigerator (a feature especially useful to out-of-state family members stocking a loved one’s fridge). In the bathroom, voice controlled lighting can help homeowners avoid the risk of slipping and falling while fumbling for the light switch in the dark. Of course, homeowners in their 60s and 70s aren’t always comfortable purchasing smart technology, so it’s often their adult children who help them leapfrog the learning curve.
All in all, there are approximately 46 million people aged 65 and over in the U.S., and this fast-growing, high-spending group will need home modifications to allow them to easily stay in their homes and live independently. Only the most forward-thinking remodelers will capture an outsized share of this $13 billion business niche.
Brad Hunter, HomeAdvisor chief economist