As Gen X hits 50, existing and planned estates need to re-evaluate their position on retirement, and on multi-generational living.
As the oldest of the Gen Xers are turning 50, and watching their baby boomer parents ‘raging against the [dimming] of the light’, they are starting to ponder their own mortality, potential morbidity and – shock, horror, gasp – old age!
The boomers have made it pretty clear they are not going to move into a ‘home’ and get fed three overcooked institutionalised meals a day between watching TV and playing bingo. So what about their children? Those 40- and 50-somethings who hold down a full-time job, raise children, cultivate heirloom vegetables, and do triathlons in their spare time?
We chatted to Arthur Case, brand managing director of Evergreen Lifestyle. As a boomer with adult Gen X children, and with his years of experience in the retirement industry, he is well ahead of the curve, having been doing that rethinking for years. The main points to ponder, according to Arthur, are security, independence, community, lifestyle and flexibility.
It’s all about unboxing people. Instead of thinking that retirees need medical facilities and – maybe – bowling greens, and families need high-speed Wi-Fi, retail and recreation, we’re starting to realise that – at every stage of life – we all need basically the same things. So, as the Xers age, community living will eventually become the norm and will morph into multi-generational models that share facilities. And many of these estates will be mixed-use new urbanism spaces in which people can live, work, play, relax, bring up young families, and – yes – retire.
Homes are likely to get smaller – but snazzier. As has been the case in Europe, people will get used to smaller, more compact living spaces but with upmarket fittings, technology and features. The idea of downscaling your home (size) while upscaling your lifestyle will become a reality.
And all this can happen in existing estates. It’s not necessarily about rebuilding, but rethinking and repurposing. It’s quite likely that Xers will start moving into retirement spaces as early as 2025 – as long as those spaces can accommodate the active and adventurous (and – yes – secure) lifestyle the Xers want and need. Retirement spaces are continually modernising, and residential and retirement spaces are merging. And, interestingly, as boomers watch their Xer children growing up, they are adopting many of the more positive X characteristics – joining a gym for the first time or running their first marathon at 65. And, if you take a peek under the helmets at the many long-distance cycling races, you’ll find many of them are securely perched on a head of (possibly thinning) grey hair.
So, how is this an opportunity for existing estates? As Arthur says, ‘Xers are likely to move into residential accommodation in secure estates that have retirement options to exploit when they feel the need to do so. Parents will live independently down the road from their adult children, and grandchildren will visit Granny and Grandpa on their bicycles after school, within the safety of the estate.’
Geez. If you think about it, that sounds a lot like the (real and metaphorical) villages that have been ‘raising children’ for centuries. And maybe that’s the answer, really. Our estates have been designed to look like villages, so perhaps we should ensure that they work like villages.