With recent surveys showing that many of the millions of aging Baby Boomers want to stay in their homes after retirement, builders and remodelers are peppering the houses they build with many age-in-place features.

There are 30 million boomers between the crucial ages of 47 and 58.

"Builders and remodelers have their finger on the pulse of today's largest home-buying population: Baby Boomers who want their homes designed so that they can gracefully age in place," said Bobby Rayburn, National Association of Home Builders president, and a home and apartment builder from Jackson, Miss. "Regardless of age or lifestyle choices, every American should have the option to live in a home that is comfortable, and allows them to maintain their independence and integrity."

NAHB says builders are more conscientious of Boomers' needs and are including the following features in new homes:

  • A bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. With a full bathroom and the master bedroom on the main floor, older homeowners who have trouble going up and down the stairs don't have to worry about the ups and downs -- literally.
  • Controls and handles that are easy to use and conveniently located. Raised electrical outlets, electrical switches positioned lower than normal, and thermostats with large, easy to read numbers make it easier for older residents.
  • Entrances that are step-free. Providing at least one entrance that doesn't have steps.
  • Extra space to move about. Wider doors and hallways will make the house more accessible.
  • Larger bathrooms, equipped with safety features. Bigger bathrooms make it easier for those who have walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs. And grab bars are essential for stability and preventing falls.
  • Better lighting. As eyesight dulls, appropriate lighting is essential. Additionally, multiple controls can limit the number of trips to turn the lights on and off. Adjustable controls and dimmers can help prevent glare.

Bill Lurz, senior editor of Professional Builder magazine, reported in a June 1, 2004, article that those in the 47 to 58 age bracket (termed "nexers" because they are the next generation in the market for active adult housing) have a specific set of needs, including:

  • Maintenance-free homes. They don't want all the traditional responsibilities attached to homeownership. They want someone else to take care of the chores so they can focus on new careers and hobbies.
  • Everything close by. They want services and entertainment right at hand so they don't have to spend a lot of time driving to restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, shopping, etc. They want these services right where they live. Along those lines, many in this age group harbor fond memories of small towns where they grew up, and long to simplify their lives and capture the hometown experience.
  • Living large, but with fewer rooms. They don't want the extra, unused rooms. Instead, they want lived-in rooms to be bigger and more comfortable. They want space used more efficiently and want fewer walls and more openness throughout the house, specifically, large great rooms off an open kitchen, where they can entertain.

And when it comes to where active adults (those between 55 and 74) are buying, they tend to gravitate toward suburban areas near metropolitan markets. The top county for these homeowners was Sumter County, Florida., according to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau. Some 61.6 percent of homeowners ages 55 to 74 bought a home in the Florida County since 1995. Nye County, Nevada, and Archuleta County, Colorado, took the second and third spots.

"About three-quarters of the active adult communities that are built, are in close-in suburbs or outer suburbs, although downtown areas are steadily gaining popularity," said Bonnie Solomon, chair of the NAHB Seniors Housing Council and a vice president of several retirement communities in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and Atlanta. "Builders are simply responding to the market demand."

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