Baby Boomers and the Downsizing Myth
More than two-thirds of Boomers want a yard or garden, and they see working outdoors as an enjoyable pastime.
The Gen Xers at our Charlotte marketing agency have been doing some extensive secondary research on the spending patterns of Baby Boomers, and the results really challenge some assumptions we have held. Not all Boomers are looking to downsize to a condo in Florida and spend their days golfing. The generation born following World War II has had a major impact on the U.S. economy and housing market over the past several decades, and the next decade will be no different as Baby Boomers enter their golden years. Sure, many Boomers will have to adjust their retirement and housing plans to the unpleasant financial realities brought on by the 2008 Great Recession, but this 75 million+ generation will still account for nearly $1 out of every $4 spent on home purchases in coming years. And don’t expect this crowd to follow previous generational trends when it comes to retirement and housing decisions.
According to The Demand Institute, 63% of Boomers plan to stay right where they are. Many have decided to stay by choice (85%) because most Boomers prefer to age in place – even though many of these homes lack aging-friendly features like one story or no yard.
As a part of a broader initiative to understand where future home and community demand is headed, the Demand Institute surveyed more than 4,000 Boomer households (50- to 69-year-olds) about their current living situation, moving intentions, and housing preferences.
While some Baby Boomers will certainly seek to downsize to multifamily homes or rentals, most Boomers on the move will seek out single-family homes – similar to what they have now, and more than two-thirds (69%) of Boomer movers want a yard or garden.
Baby Boomers And Their Gardening Interests
Research shows that most Americans fall in love with gardening once they buy their first house and have a yard to play with and grow in. The first wave of Boomers developed a passion for gardening in the late 1980s and at that time the national obsession with perennial gardens exploded.
As Boomers hit retirement, they are looking at less demanding gardening styles. Since 2003, the perennial border has been steadily shrinking. Now “simple” is in and trees and shrubs have taken over from the higher maintenance perennials and annuals. Fewer flowers, sure, but also a lot less time is needed to maintain woody plants.
Garden centers are also seeing a shift away from large quantity purchases of many small plants in flats to fewer, larger plants in single packaged sizes. Smaller packaging sizes extends to seeds, soil, and fertilizer for easier handling; hand-held sprayers and extension nozzles for easily watering containers; and, rolling garden carts you can sit on and use for storage so users don’t have to bend over or kneel to work in their gardens.
Maturing Boomers and their aching backs are also benefiting from the latest research and developments in lighter weight, cushioned, ergonomically designed hand tools such as pruning shears, grass clippers, loppers, and rakes.
One area where Boomers are not downsizing is an expansion into outdoor living spaces and increasing the garden size versus lawn area. The National Gardening Association said Baby Boomers were responsible for 42% of the purchases in the $26.6 billion lawn and garden market last year. Baby boomers are the most likely of all consumer groups to undertake landscaping or deck projects, they’re heavy purchasers of related lawn and garden items, and they see lawn and garden work as an enjoyable pastime.
So when it comes to yard work, the Boomer generation is more active than past generations and wants to continue living a full life with as little compromise as possible. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier climates, or staying put and redesigning to accommodate a more retired lifestyle, Boomers will continue to make make a big impact on the bottom line of brands associated with lawn and garden care maintenance.