Boomer decision-making on home modifications for aging in place
Some of you may have participated late last year in my research survey about consumer decision making, baby boomers, and aging in place. If so, thank you very much for contributing to our collective knowledge! As of mid-November 2013, 225 people had responded to the survey: 57% boomers aged 50-64, and 43% non-boomers aged 65+.
For decades, AARP has conducted surveys showing that 80-90% of Americans want to age in place. My survey results were similar at 78%. The literature research for my thesis, though, indicated that less than 15% of earlier generations would make changes to their home despite being told to do so by health care providers. With 10,000 baby boomers becoming senior citizens every day, we should be very concerned if boomers are not making plans for late-life housing.
Surprisingly, 30% of the respondents had made home modifications—24% of boomers and 38% of non-boomers. In addition,12-13% of both cohorts had relocated for aging in place. Of course, this means 57% of the sample had not taken any action—some were still planning, but 30% felt that acting on the problem wasn’t necessary.
Unfortunately, we can’t make any conclusions about the general population. The sample population was what is referred to as “biased”: predominantly White, female, and with advanced degrees. But interestingly, even for this educated, well-off, biased sample—boomer and non-boomer—the most important reasons for making modifications were to maintain independence or stay in the community. Making a good investment, beautifying the home, or relocating to a better community were all good motivators. But, planning for declining health was the least important. And moving to be near adult children? Clearly not important to this sample.
Another finding was a possible explanation for boomers making modifications in higher than expected frequencies. In response to a fill-in-the-blank question, quite a few boomers said they had done so in order to care for a parent, a disabled family member, or even in one case, a couple of large dogs. Being the sandwich generation may be helping boomers to age in place. The conclusion is that to persuade clients to act on their housing needs, it may be better to emphasize maintaining an independent and community-focused life style over health and the decline that accompanies aging.
To collect more data and hopefully widen the sample diversity, the survey is continuing to run. If you are age 50+, live in the USA, and have 10 minutes, join the study at https://sfsu.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0krJfgtneFnTrO5.
Thank you for your help!
About MJ Lee
At age 50, in a torrent of downsizing initiated by the dot.com collapse, I accepted an early retirement package from Hewlett Packard. After decades as a scientist and engineer, I went back to community college and became passionate about interior design. What really concerned me was the housing question for myself and the friends like me who were female, divorced boomers. This concern lead me to the interior design Masters program at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where my focus narrowed specifically on aging in place and how do we motivate more people to implement modifications in support of staying put in our homes. For a copy of my thesis and the research slide set, please go to http://mjlee101.wix.com/mjlee101
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