The aging in place movement has prompted many seniors to look to the future and make changes so that they can remain in their homes and live full, uninterrupted lives. But even though the movement has allowed many seniors to have a better quality of life, it's arguably had another unintentional effect: it may be having a negative impact on the U.S. housing market. And Millennials are taking the brunt of the blame.
Without a doubt, the aging in place trend has captured the attention of seniors across the nation. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, 90% of seniors intended to live in their homes for the next five to 10 years. But that same data revealed that only 43% of Americans over the age of 70 found it very easy to live independently. Since the retail spending for durable medical equipment (which includes wheelchairs, mobility aids, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and more) reached $48.5 billion, it's no surprise that seniors may need to make major adjustments to their home just so they can get around.
Aging in place is by no means a new concept; it's just one that's caught on in recent years now that Baby Boomers are getting older. The CDC defines aging as place as “the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age.” While some aging-in-place modifications are relatively easy changes (like installing grab bars on the sides of the
tub and toilet), others require extensive renovations. Experts recommend installing higher toilets, widening doorways, putting in ramps, changing flooring, and more.
Many seniors are more than willing to make these changes while they're able, as these projects will allow them to remain in their homes for the foreseeable future. And while some changes can be on the pricier side, independent living specialist Patricia A. Nunan told the Reading Eagle that they can be spread out over time.
“Aging-in-place modifications don't have to be done all at once,” said Nunan. “The best way to start is with a design plan. [It] doesn't mean spending a fortune or doing everything, but it starts with planning.”
But even though the movement may be making many seniors happy, hopeful real estate buyers are not so thrilled. According to CNBC, the fact that Baby Boomers are refusing to move is making the housing market much more competitive than in the past. As a result, houses are becoming a lot less affordable and U.S. housing recovery may be at a standstill. Although Realtor.com predicted that 61% of homebuyers in 2017 would be under age 35, these young buyers who are eager to buy a home literally cannot find one.
It does make financial sense for this older generation to stay put, but nationwide statistics show their decision is quite wasteful. Trulia found that Baby Boomers own 3.6 million unoccupied rooms all across the country. And while some are quick to blame Millennials' indulgences (like avocado toast and opulent bachelor parties, for example) for their failure to invest in real estate, data shows that they may not be at fault.
Unfortunately, Baby Boomers have fewer opportunities to downsize in an economic way, so they're just as stuck as the younger generations are. And until builders really start increasing their properties (a task already tough as it is, with the high prices of land, materials, and labor), not much is likely to change. At the very least, perhaps this data might show the Baby Boomer generation to take a closer look at their own housing habits before criticizing the Millennials. After all, those who live (and stay) in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.