Senior Real Estate Specialist June 21, 2024

Future-Proof Designs: Home Upgrades for Longevity, Aging in Place

Man holding book

Many Baby Boomers are contemplating the next step in their housing needs. (SRES image)

More than 50 percent of Baby Boomers have no plans to move, says a Leaf Home and Morning Consult report, 2024 Generational Divides in Homeownership Report.

The top reasons for boomers staying put include:

  • No need to move (79%)
  • Close to family (34%)
  • Too expensive to move (33%)
  • Low crime (25%)
  • Weather or climate (18%)
  • Interest rates (12%)

Living in a museum

But 68 percent of boomers live in homes more than 30 years old or more, and many have done no renovations—nor do they intend to—according to the report. For example, among those who have lived in their home for more than 25 years, 85 percent have no plans to add safety or accessibility features, 83 percent say they aren’t planning to replace the furnace or air conditioner, 80 percent won’t replace roofing or siding, and 67 percent aren’t upgrading large appliances.

They’re essentially living in time capsules, and that’s a problem for them and future generations. “The housing market is caught in a generational tug-of-war,” says Jon Bostock, Leaf Home’s CEO.

For the residents, the homes are missing critical safety and accessibility features, and future buyers will be burdened with renovating these dated properties. “With an aging and ignored inventory of homes available in the next decade, we may see a crisis that will overwhelm the home improvement industry and strain the budgets of inheriting millennials, impacting the housing market,” he adds.

Design for future needs

The 2024 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study emphasizes the importance of designing with longevity in mind and accommodating aging household members’ future and current needs. It found respondents attuned to aging-in-place renovations in the kitchen, and more than half of homeowners (52 percent) anticipate special needs arising within the next five years.

Among renovating homeowners, 27 percent said special needs in the kitchen were the reason to renovate, and 36 percent did so to address future needs. Twenty-eight percent said they expect a future need to arise in the next 12 months, and 51 percent anticipate a need to emerge in the next five-plus years.

Those renovating for aging purposes looked to universal design elements to introduce safety and functionality with features like pullout cabinets (58 percent), extra lighting (54 percent), and wide drawer pulls (48 percent).

Making living easier

Other changes to accommodate aging in place were:

  • Nonslip floors (37%)
  • Rounded countertops (34%)
  • Wheelchair-accessible doorways/pathways (22%)
  • Lower fixtures (14%)
  • Lower countertop height (5%)

Houzz also found that more homeowners (54 percent) prefer to replace all appliances during a renovation. Though not explicitly chosen for aging-in-place reasons, renovating homeowners are increasingly picking appliances with high-tech capabilities. For example, 30 percent chose appliances with Wi-Fi connectivity, and 29 percent opted for models that can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet.

Quality of life

Such models can enhance seniors’ quality of life. For instance, they allow remote control and monitoring so homeowners can manage appliances remotely or from another room. Moreover, certain refrigerators include features such as food expiration monitoring and automatic grocery list creation that streamline to-do lists. Additionally, newer appliances are more energy efficient, which benefits the environment and reduces utility bills.

(Content courtesy of Senior Real Estate Specialist/National Association of Realtors, March 1, 2024)