Dorothy Was Right. There's No Place Like Home

By The Age of Aging Archives
Cover image for  article: Dorothy Was Right. There's No Place Like Home

The largest, wealthiest generation in history is now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, a trend that will continue every day for the next 15 years. The better part of nearly 77 million baby boomers are now in the process of 'reverse commuting' — shifting their daily focus from the workplace to the home. As the hours that were once spent commuting and at work are reallocated to the home, the dynamics of how the home is used — and how lives are lived within it — will undergo sweeping changes.

This is the biggest marketing power trend that no one's paying attention to. As this new home-centric pattern of living emerges, it will impact the consideration, choice, and use of an endless array of products and services. The implications for product innovation and marketing practices will be significant for years to come.

As with any trend this big, there are significant sub-trends that warrant closer examination, specifically:

Space in Transition

If there's no place like home, then imagine what it feels like to live in a newly renovated house. The typical boomer home has evolved from a comfortable nest that once nurtured a growing family to a space that is in transition. The prospect of more time at home is triggering a desire to alter the home in a way that nurtures the inhabitants' dreams for their future. It's time for the 'Me-Generation' to rediscover aspects of their lives that were once interrupted by family and work demands in the years prior.

Data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that 73 percent of buyers ages 55 and up don't want a second-floor master suite. Boomers wishing to save their joints and avoid stairs have helped fuel this trend. First-floor bedrooms and bathrooms, wider doors and hallways, better lighting, bigger windows, and easy to maintain exteriors and landscaping are becoming common.

And after years of paying others to do what they did not have time to do themselves, many home-centric boomers are getting back to being do-it-yourselfers (DIYers). What was once a chore has become a source of enjoyment — made possible by improved home and hardware products, now readily available from DIY retailers.

Space vacated by grown children is being repurposed to support boomers' passions. The home is being transformed to become a space to entertain others and enjoy quality friendships in a comfortable setting. Boomers are spending considerable sums to convert living spaces (bedrooms) into passion-driven lifestyle spaces (think craft rooms, man caves, or art studios). For the more affluent, expect renovation and expansion on an even grander scale.

Healthy Homes

Next, consider that a healthy home is a happy home. One of the most important aspects of aging is 'liberation.' Typically, this feeling is triggered by a shift from the structured demands of the workplace to a more flexible post-work lifestyle. Liberation is characterized by the ability to focus on life priorities that were previously sacrificed to prioritize work and career. As they age, boomers are taking more personal responsibility for their own health. As such, 'healthcare-at-home' is being redefined — not with their parents' medical equipment, but with mobility-enhancing products, technology, and devices that provide at-home care solutions. Active boomers will seek and pay a premium for products that work without calling attention to age-related disabilities.

More than half of boomers indicate that their biggest fear of aging is 'restricted mobility or difficulty getting around,' up from 44 percent in 2006. Mobility will be the greatest new high-order benefit, and exercise and diet will be integrated into a virtuous circle for more aging boomers.

Expect boomers to purchase home exercise equipment and establish home workout routines to stay fit and feeling great.

Full House

More than a few boomers will be coming home to a full house, not the empty nest they may have dreamed of. The share of Americans living in multigenerational households is the highest it has been since the 1950s; boomers have become the latest 'sandwich generation.' The trend toward multigenerational living — gathering momentum since the 1990s — has been accelerated by the combined pressures of economic uncertainty and a mixed employment picture. With boomers' parents moving in and the kids not moving out, many will find themselves managing an even more demanding home dynamic.

This unique household composition will provide marketers with the opportunity to address a multigenerational home as a household instead of a collection of separate and distinct consumers.

Home Bodies

So, it seems that Dorothy had it right: There really is no place like home.

If you're a marketer, this is the only homecoming that matters. Virtually everything bought in a grocery store or a mall or on the internet lands in the home to be used or kept there for use elsewhere; in essence, home is where most brands live. And it's also where boomers are going to get down to some well-earned living.

The 'work hard, play hard' generation is catching its breath and getting ready for what comes next — and the next phase will fundamentally involve the home. The most important generation in the history of marketing is about to experience the most dramatic lifestyle change since they were married and started families decades ago. In change there is opportunity, so think about how you, as a marketer, can put the home at the center of your thought process for creating new products, services, and experiences for the changing, aging consumer. It's time to put out the marketing welcome mat.

Photo courtesy of BoomAgers.

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