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Facing the Future

For a population with “baby” in its name, the topic of aging doesn’t come easily to Baby Boomers. Defined as Americans born in the post-WWII years between 1946 and 1964, these men and women today are turning 65 at a rate of about 10,000 a day, and facing a host of familiar issues in the process.

But unlike recent generations of retirees, they’re much more interested in staying in their own homes than moving to retirement communities. Home feels comfortable and safe, they’re happier among familiar surroundings, and they can maintain a much stronger sense of independence. That means Boomers are spending to renovate, remodel and retrofit their houses to make staying there possible. And interestingly, as a group that came of age in a more style- and status-conscious era, they want their last home to be just as well-appointed as their previous ones were.

Design trends that are responding to this stylish, aging-in-place generation include single-floor homes, or remodeling to create a first-floor master suite in multi-story homes. Easy maintenance and easy access are two other must-haves, including appliances and fixtures with cleaner lines, doors that swing or fold away, and thresholds that are flush with the floor. And manufacturers are creating ways for their younger engineers and designers to understand the physical limitations that Baby Boomer customers face – like an “aging suit” that restricts vision and movement – so they can create products that are easier for everyone to use.

The Boomers – with their sheer numbers and exacting expectations – might be the first generation to show just how much the act of aging can be a positive, life-affirming process that younger generations can face with confidence, and even optimism.