Baby Boomers are redefining the rules of retirement living. Americans between the ages of 51 and 70 want a completely different environment and lifestyle than the one that their parents enjoyed during their later years. Builders and developers know that senior housing is undergoing a total overhaul as Boomers age, because so many are choosing apartment living over single-family homes.
Researchers predict that by 2030, there will be more than 12 million renters who are 65 or older. Why are so many adults enthusiastically choosing to rent after decades of living in their own homes? Freedom, flexibility, fitness, and fulfillment are four of the main motivators.
Many Baby Boomers are eager to downsize, culling through a lifetime of belongings that sometimes seem to own them instead of the other way around. Moving into a smaller apartment that provides a comfortable living space with an adequate storage area for the essentials offers an exhilarating fresh start, unencumbered by mountains of “stuff” that require upkeep.
Boomer women who have cleaned a large home for most of their lives are often happy to be relieved of this duty. Couples who have been responsible for expensive home maintenance are no longer on the hook when a roof leaks, the plumbing backs up, or the refrigerator dies. Landlords or property managers take care of snow removal, lawn cutting, and tree trimming. For many seniors who've been responsible for house and property maintenance for decades, knowing that someone else is taking care of things is a great relief. For these retirees, convenience and freedom from stress is far more desirable than the perceived stability of owning a home.
Many Boomers are hoping to travel extensively or try out new retirement living environments without making the long-term commitment that a home or condo purchase requires. A one-year lease is far more palatable than a 25-year mortgage.
Many seniors relocate to be closer to young grandchildren while still maintaining an independent lifestyle. But buying a home can be stressful, and by the time most Boomers reach 65, there is a reluctance to go through the whole process again. Renting offers all the perks of grandparental proximity with the footloose flexibility to move again when the young ones leave home.
In addition to not paying property taxes on a rental, seniors preserve their retirement savings by renting if they plan to live in one location for just a few years. Additionally, it’s often less expensive to rent a lovely home in a preferred community than to purchase. This opens up more options for seniors to reside in upscale neighborhoods that offer security and amenities.
Golf courses and tennis courts are no longer retirement living priorities for Baby Boomers. Personal fitness is a primary motivator. Older renters want health-oriented communities that support a multi-dimensional focus on wellness. Communities that offer well-groomed walking and hiking trails and bike lanes are hot. Wellness programs that feature water exercise classes, yoga, and dance lessons are popular. Outdoor recreation that includes resident and community gardens for organic produce cultivation is important to health-conscious Boomers.
Baby Boomer renters seek easy connectivity between their apartment complex and the rest of the community. They want quick access to Main Street, downtown, and commercial districts without relying on their cars, so public transit or community-provided transportation is important. Now that they have more time to enjoy cultural events, such as theater, music and dance performances, and fine dining, they want to be close to the action.
Boomers actively seek personal and occupational fulfillment through volunteer work or pursuing a hobby. In fact, many Boomer retirees are not fully retired. Some work part-time, others work as consultants, and some pursue a second career. A 2013 Del Webb survey of Boomers discovered that 79 percent of them expect to continue working in some capacity after retirement, bringing a whole new look and feel to the 21st century’s definition of retirement living.