Housing: Aging Baby Boomers Know What They Want; But What Do They Need?

Event: New Issue for Senior Housing: “What Will Baby Boomers Want?”
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.07.08
Speakers: Louise Braverman, AIA, NCARB — Louise Braverman, Architect; Paul Cogley, AICP — Director of Development and Projects, Churches United Corporation; Michael Gelfand, AIA — Partner, MHG Architects; Richard S. Rosen, AIA, LEED AP — Principal, Perkins Eastman
Moderator: Sarelle Weisberg, FAIA — S.T. Weisberg, Architect
Organizer: AIANY Housing Committee

The Baby Boomer generation is a product of Woodstock and marching on Washington. They are more educated than earlier, and they believe they will never age. Baby Boomers want to work longer and are determined to hold onto their independence. Boomers’ reputations are that of wealthy individuals who resist change, believe they are 10 years younger than they are, always seeking personal fulfillment in life. Perhaps that’s why architect and panel moderator Sarelle T. Weisberg, FAIA, defined this group as exponents of “creative denial.”

Architects must address Boomers’ needs when designing for the aging. Boomers want to be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to their living situations. They are not all moving to Florida or Arizona, like previous generations; they want to be close to their families, cultural events, personal resources, and their communities. They want to age in place, in a home they own that does not resemble a hospital.

There are many alternatives to current facilities for the aging. For example, universities are providing housing options so aging populations can mix with students. There is an increase in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC). Co-housing, or lifestyle-driven communities, allows for individuals with specific interests and lifestyles to take care of each other (such as retirement communities for the gay/lesbian population). Senior assisted living communities within major cities may be integrated with mixed-use developments, such as the Time Warner Center and the Chelsea Market, which have the potential to provide a variety of city resources in one location — easily accessible and not removed from society.

The Baby Boomer generation is aging quickly. It is up to designers to create environments where everyone feels as young as they think they are.