Interesting front page story yesterday in the Kansas City Star newspaper, titled "A New Way of Living". The story took information from the recent census and explained how lifestyle changes are affecting living arrangements.
The baby boomers are living longer, and no longer need or want large suburban homes when the kids are gone. Boomers' parents are living well into their 70s and 80s--they don't want the maintenence of a home and may prefer to rent. Echo boomers aren't in a rush to get married and they want to be mobile. Because of this marriage delay, couples aren't having as many children as their parents did. These lifestyle changes mean changes for the housing industry as well. Rentals are up, big house sales are down, and the 'mixed use' neighborhood is what's trending: smaller, less expensive homes for young couples and empty nesters, within walking distance of restaurants, grocery, and other amenities (like my beloved Brookside in Kansas City--where I live!).
One trend I've noticed with my customers that wasn't mentioned in the story was older 'children' who have retired, now having to take care of their aging parents. I've worked with four couples over the past year, aging into their late 50s - 60s who plan to retire and take it easy. Their parents, however, aging into their 80s and beyond, are not so independent anymore. Not wanting to (or can't afford to) place their parents in a senior living community, they want a home where Mom and/or Dad can live with them, but still have a sense of separation. Perhaps build small, separate living quarters on to a ranch home, or buy a condo on a different floor than the younger set purchases. It's almost sad to see, in one sense, when the boomers finally reach a sense of financial security and freedom when the kids are gone, yet they have to put the travel plans on hold to now take care of their parents in one way or another. They sometimes feel stuck yet obligated to do something. I see this as being a problem that grows quickly in the years ahead.
What's the solution? If money isn't an issue, then building that extra room or renting something for the folks nearby can work. But most people don't have several thousands of dollars to create a specific solution that works for everyone. Many boomers will have to make room for their parents--perhaps in that 'empty nest' when the children are gone.