This is a terrific article we wanted to to share with readers on our blog regarding Baby Boomers. It comes from Dianne Carlson of The Herald-Palladium in SW Michigan.
Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 1:08 PM EST
Generations: Dianne Carlson
Awhile back we took a trip to the east coast and spent a few days on the Outer Banks of North Carolina – the OBX. We love the moderate climate, the slow pace and, of course, the ocean.
It’s been years since I’ve been to that part of the world, and it was interesting to see how much the area has built up over time. All up and down the coast, there are literally miles and miles of neighborhoods filled with the biggest houses I’ve ever seen. Most appeared to be summer homes, and with the downturn in the economy, many homes had “For Sale” signs out front.
The so-called “McMansions” or “Hummer Homes” are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, both as second homes and in suburbia. As baby boomers age, they’re looking for smaller homes and escaping the suburbs in exchange for urban neighborhoods and smaller, single-story homes, but still chock-full of amenities such as high-end kitchens and open floor plans.
There are definite benefits to downsizing – or “rightsizing.” A survey of people ages 50 to 65 conducted by a real estate trade association reports the advantages that moving to a smaller home, apartment or manufactured home can provide – whether people are still working or have retired.
Boomers note that a smaller place can offer more disposable income because of lower taxes, and energy and mortgage costs.
Less space means less cleaning with more time for leisure activities. Maintenance decreases, and the time it took to mow the lawn can mean more time for a long walk.
Newer homes are preferred by boomers, and more people are looking for homes built with “green” building materials. Fewer furnishings can actually mean that a home may be filled with higher quality or more meaningful items. For instance, a special place for a few knickknacks may make those items seem more important than the entire collection of Hummels. And reducing furnishings to only those used on a daily basis creates as much overall space, like no longer having to decorate an unused formal living room.
Aside from wanting homes with granite countertops, gas fireplaces, enclosed garages and main-floor master suites and laundry, folks surveyed want decks, patios and outdoor space, an extension of the overall living space.
There are downsides to downsizing. Downsizing usually means a move to a different neighborhood and leaving familiar surroundings. There is less storage, and it may be necessary to scale back on family heirlooms and mementoes, and replace furnishings. The mantra is: “Do you want it? Do you need it? Will you use it?”
And then hard decisions about dispersing household goods and furnishings to family or friends, having a yard sale or donating to charity have to be sorted out. There’s a whole new industry of professional organizers who can coordinate a move, manage a sale, organize and even decorate the new space.
Given the current economic times, it may not be possible to sell a larger home at a price that will finance a move. If the home sells, proceeds can be eaten up by the costs of a new mortgage, moving and furnishings.
A friend of mine downsized from her large four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom town home. She told me that aside from the convenience and cost savings, one of her motivations in moving was deciding on her own that it was time, rather than facing a potential move in the future because of health issues. That gave her a sense of control. She also said she didn’t want to burden her grown children with having to sort through a large house full of stuff, because she did that before she moved.
Baby boomers now constitute more than half of the home sales nationwide and are notoriously interested in convenience. Unlike their Depression-era parents, boomers have been more transient and grew up when everything was disposable. The trend toward downsizing fits.
Dianne Carlson is community service director of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Long-Term Care at (800)654-2810 or check the Web site at www.areaagencyonaging.org.