Business of Aging: The Retirement Housing Market

file000984762020How and where older adults choose to live will have widespread implications for the different ways homes might be designed, what resources will be needed, and how communities nationwide should prepare for an aging population.
~ 2015 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study conducted in Partnership with Age Wave

Retirement often presents new housing opportunities for older adults. Retirees with financial means, no work commitment and an empty nest have the freedom to choose how and where they want to live.

According to an article in the Seattle Times “A wave of retirements among baby boomers in the coming decades will have a big impact on residential real estate, in ways that are upending some conventional assumptions.” For example, it is generally assumed that retirees that move are looking to downsize. However, “49% of retirees didn’t downsize in their last move. In fact, three in ten upsized into a larger home” according to the Merrill Lynch Study.

Unique housing options are being created that cater to specific niches in the growing older adult market.

One option gaining interest is ‘cohousing’. According to the Canadian Cohousing Network senior cohousing is defined as “a neighbourhood focused on aging well in community. Residents design and manage senior cohousing themselves relying on neighbourly mutual support (co-care) and a resident caregiver they hire as needed. Communities are designed for physical accessibility as well as financial, environmental, and social sustainability. Large, shared common facilities and individually owned small dwellings preserve privacy while valuing community.”

If you can afford the $164,000/year rent, living on a cruise ship could be another option. The cost covers a “single-occupancy seventh deck stateroom, regular and specialty restaurant meals with available lunch and dinner beverages, gratuities, nightly ballroom dancing with dance hosts and Broadway-caliber entertainment — as well as the captain’s frequent cocktail parties, movies, lectures, plus other scheduled daily activities.”

At the other extreme, there is also a demographic of older adults who choose ‘no home at all’ and prefer to travel and lead a nomadic lifestyle. An article in The New York Times entitled, Increasingly, Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Hit the Road, profiles older adults who have chosen to make their home anything from campgrounds to vacation rentals. How We Became International Senior Gypsies In Retirement follows a couple that has been ‘home free’ since 2010.

Although the options for unique housing opportunities continues to grow, presently, the majority of retired individuals prefer to age in place. In the United States “while roughly two-thirds of retirees are likely to move at least once in retirement, the other one-third anticipates staying where they are throughout their retirement years” according to The Merrill Lynch Study.


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