Posted on 05 January 2010
By Mark Miller
The concept of active adult living just turned 50, with the anniversary of Sun City’s opening in Arizona on New Year’s day in 1960. NPR notes the anniversary with a look today at Del Webb’s concept of retirement living is faring.
Since those days, developers have updated the retirement living concept to recognize the lifestyle changes among older Americans–notably, the fact that many aren’t retiring in the traditional fashion. Yet, despite the millions spent on marketing, just three percent of 55-plus households lived in these communities as of 2007, according to the Metlife Mature Market Institute and the National Association of Home Builders [pdf].
One AARP survey found that 89 percent of Americans would like to live in their current homes as long as possible-and that number rises to 95 percent when people over age 75 are asked the question. The housing crash has solidified the urge to stay put, but doing so successfully will require some careful planning–something few boomers are doing.
The simple truth is that few of us are thinking proactively about what it means to age in place; just 16 percent of respondents to that AARP survey said they had made any modifications to their homes that would make it possible to stay where they are. That suggests too many of us are living in what some experts have dubbed Peter Pan housing-homes designed for people who will never get old.
Pioneering approaches are emerging that will help people stay where they are-avoiding costly and difficult relocations. These include intentional communities such as Beacon Hill Village in Boston, universal design and in-home technology that facilitates aging.