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Rise of the Single 55+ Homebuyer Part 1: Meet the Solo Agers

A radical change to the property industry is coming. Driven by the increasing number of households in the United States headed by adults over the age of 55 who are unmarried and have no children, this transformation has the potential to alter the housing landscape for the foreseeable future. Property developers and builders, especially those catering to home buyers in the 55+ market, need to be intimately familiar with the wants and needs of single home buyers, known as a group as “solo agers,” as they plan future housing developments, active adult neighborhoods, and senior living communities.

Who are the solo agers? Immersion Active set out to answer this question in a recent survey that examined the group’s wants and needs regarding housing and community. We discovered that this group, who have also been called “elder orphans”, are the 22% (and growing!) group of Americans over the age of 65 who are aging alone, either literally by themselves or living so far from adult children or other family members that they cannot rely on outside help for daily tasks such as a lift to or from a doctor’s appointment, help with grocery shopping, and in-home help if temporarily disabled. The growth of this cohort is driven by several societal trends, including increasing divorce rates, lower overall birth rates, and a growing number of people who move far from family members for employment and settle down to make their lives wherever they move.

Property developers and builders should take solo agers into account as they plan their new projects because single people often try to control the risks associated with aging alone by planning extensively for their older years. This early planning puts them on the forefront of the future of senior housing and makes them the proverbial “canary in the coalmine” for the senior living housing market: a group whose choices will pioneer new ways of living, influence future trends, and dictate the options that developers and builders should consider when planning communities.

As in the general population, among solo agers there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty regarding aging alone and at home. The current options available to help people stay in their home longer, such as in-home care, may be cost prohibitive. Nevertheless, 87% of adults age 65 and up express the desire to age at home. In the Immersion Active survey, 44% of solo agers indicated that their current home will not suit their future needs as they age. Respondents acknowledge that either a move or a significant renovation would be required to allow them to age in place. The solo agers in our survey indicated a preference for buying a new home rather than renting and they showed a distinct preference for urban and suburban areas with easy access to health care, shopping, opportunities for socializing, and even volunteer opportunities. For example, in our survey, only 19% of respondents said they would consider a rural area when choosing a new home. In fact, the tendency to “urban up” or move to communities where the need to drive is diminished and neighbors are close by was one of the most intriguing findings of the survey.

The good news for property developers and new home builders aware of the single homebuyer trend is that the growth of this population is an intriguing opportunity to be at the forefront of a movement, one that offers significant chances for innovative thinking, technological advancements, and lucrative new development. For a more nuanced look at the solo ager home buyer’s wants and needs, please download the complete white paper Predicting Housing Trends: How Solo Agers Will Impact Community Developmentand then contact the experts at Immersion Active to learn more about how to position your community as a hot spot for single 55+ plus home buyers.

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