Manny Gonzalez – Senior Trends: Active Lifestyle, Tech Savvy

June 6, 2014

IRVINE, CA—With more than 10,000 people a day turning 65, the Baby-Boomer generation’s preferences are significantly impacting design and development of senior housing, Manny Gonzalez, principal with KTGY Group Inc., tells exclusively. By 2030, when all of this generation’s members have turned 65, 18% of the nation’s population will be at least that age, the Pew Research Center projects.

But don’t call these Boomers “old,” says Gonzalez. “The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until age 72, says a Pew Research survey. My thought is that if Pew did this survey today, the majority of the Boomers might say that ‘old age’ begins at age 79 or 80, especially when so many Boomers are living longer.” The US Census Bureau projects the population of people at least 100 years old will grow to more than 600,000 by 2050, KTGY says.

Gonzalez says Boomers want to live in their existing home for as long as they can. “They want to stay healthy, be active and entertain. Del Webb found that about 60% of people who are looking to live in active-adult communities are still working in some capacity.”

He adds that Boomers are far more tech-savvy than previous generations of seniors. “Boomers are just as likely as Gen Y or X to own a computer, access the Internet daily and use a mobile phone. Boomers now spend more money on technology than any other demographic, according to Forrester Research’s annual benchmark tech study.”

When it’s time to consider senior housing, Boomers want to stay connected and live close to their families, says Gonzalez. “The last thing they want to do is move into the type of retirement community where they visited their parents or grandparents. They want an amenity-rich, active-adult, age-qualified community that’s walkable and offers resort living within a larger amenity-rich master plan.”

Today’s senior-housing developments are also incorporating universal-design principles that allow residents to age in place comfortably. Features like single-level living or providing the ability to add a lift as needed if the home is two stories are becoming more common, as are wide corridors, open floor plans to maximize mobility and daylighting, the elimination of any level changes on the ground floor and wide door approaches to allow for a person in a chair, says Gonzalez. “Universal design is really nothing more than creating an environment that makes living easier for everyone, and if it’s done well, you won’t even notice it until you benefit from it.”

Entertainment spaces in senior living are also changing, since Boomers want the space to entertain. “Boomers want to be able to entertain their friends and not just another couple, but generally four to eight others, which is why they need a larger kitchen island and a great-room plan,” says Gonzalez. “In the living room, a selling feature used to be the massive built-in ‘entertainment center,’ but then with the advent of flatscreen TVs, it evolved into a media niche wall. Today, the kitchen is considered the entertainment center, where everyone congregates, and an island that seats six or more in a round or ‘L’-shaped configuration is a must.”

In the master bathroom, Gonzalez says he is seeing a significant reduction in Boomers wanting large soaker tubs or two-piece tubs with adjoining shower layouts. “We are, however, seeing an increase in curbless or zero-threshold showers. In some of my plans, we offer several options ranging from the traditional two-piece shower-and-tub layout that encompasses about 4 ft. x 9 ft. to a 4×9-ft. walk-in shower as a standard feature, and the tub is an option.”

One of the newest features for senior bathrooms is a hidden shower drain in the walk-in shower so that it makes the zero-threshold shower both practical and elegant. The drain is located at the base of the shower-head wall and is virtually hidden from view, which eliminates the ugly drain in the very center of the curbless shower.

The desire for high-quality senior housing runs throughout Southern California. As reported recently, Meta Housing Corp. and Path Ventures has broken ground on a high-quality, affordable senior-housing multifamily complex in Long Beach called Long Beach and 21st Apartments. Once completed, the facility expects to achieve LEED-Silver certified status.