Baby Boomers and Small-Space Living

Our reader survey conducted this spring found that Boomers are right behind Millennials when it comes to interest in small-space furniture. Here's how you can incorporate this into your business strategy.

Alison Martin
08/20/2018
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Millennials love small spaces. Baby Boomers love big spaces. Right?

Maybe not. This spring, Lighting & Decor conducted a reader survey to see how retailers viewed small-space living. When asked which age groups gravitated towards small-space furniture, Millennials naturally took the top spot, but in second place, Boomers showed the most interest.

Some retailers have been reluctant to chase the Millennial consumer and continued to focus on Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, but from our study, it looks like a small, but potentially growing niche of Boomers may be gravitating towards smaller, more manageable spaces. Here’s why that may be and what retailers and interior designers can do with
this information.

Why Boomers Choose Small Spaces

Danielle Arigoni, Director of Livable Communities at AARP, says AARP’s most recent research correlates with Lighting & Decor’s findings. Not surprisingly, 76 percent of Baby Boomers ages 50 and above surveyed by AARP said they wanted to stay in their homes as long as possible, but only 46 percent said it would likely be possible, which means Boomers will likely be moving and downsizing.

“That leaves another 50 percent of the people who are going to make some change overall,” Arigoni says. Though AARP did not ask surveyors, Arigoni believes most Boomers will likely move because of affordability, accessibility or lifestyle concerns. Thirteen percent said they preferred to stay in their communities, and another 50 percent said they already do or would be willing to live in a shared space.

While Millennials live in smaller spaces out of necessity, some Baby Boomers choose them for the luxury. California-based interior designer Kerrie Kelly says many of her Baby Boomer clients choose smaller spaces as second homes, and when they downsize, they choose smaller spaces with all the amenities. She recently completed a project for a Boomer couple who moved into a penthouse apartment of a luxury hotel in Sacramento, which provides all the easy conveniences of a hotel and allows them to lock up and go whenever they want. They may not be able to host Thanksgiving dinner, but they can still entertain.

“They are absolutely incorporating all the efficiencies and celebrating some of that stripped-down yet very functional lifestyle where in the past they have had some swag drapes and they were raising kids,” Kelly says.

Your Small-Space Strategy

In 2017, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that one in five people in the U.S. will be over the age of 65 by 2035. As more Millennials buy homes (they made 34 percent of the total home purchases in the U.S. in 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors), Boomers may find themselves taking over those apartment leases, settling into retirement communities or even moving into accessory dwelling units on their children’s properties (turn to page 42 for more information on these units).

If your showroom carries furniture and lighting fit for small spaces, Kelly recommends taking it a step further and using iPads and tablets to further show a space’s potential. Using apps like Houzz and Pinterest can also help customers visualize. For designers, attention should be paid to the flow of the home, even if it’s a small space. Wider doorways and better amenities will allow Boomers to move easily throughout their golden years.

Boomers and Millennials have been pitted against each other as being complete opposites, but it turns out, they have more in common than previously thought. Small-space living may be what bridges the gap.

“In many ways,” Arigoni says, “the community preference and the home preferences of Millennials and Boomers actually align.” 

 

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