Sunday, September 07, 2014

The magnum opus on US housing for older people - lessons for Europe

Want to know how older people are shaping the US housing market? It is your lucky day. Go no further than this link and you have enough reading a viewing to take up the rest of your weekend.

That said, when I delved into the report to see what it had to say about adapting housing to the cognitive, sensory and physical issues of ageing I found it a tad on the thin side.

I think the work that Kim Walker and I have already done in this area goes way beyond the insights from Harvard.

There are lots of things revealed in the report that is applicable to Europe. Two of them are illustrated in the diagrams.

We are already seeing a change in the pattern from outright ownership to renting. This is something that is happening in the UK and will become more visible year-by-year.

The occupancy of households is trending single. It is doing this in the younger population out of choice, although this is being hampered by the lack of funds for younger people to purchase a property. In the older age group their is an element of choice (lots of divorces etc) and the likelihood that women live longer then men.

The other factor that is not shown in these charts is that a third of adults, over the age of 50, pay over 30% of their income for homes that may not even fit their needs.

The report draws some worrying conclusions. I quote.

Furthermore, Harvard’s studies are finding that baby boomers who are in their 50′s and older, may be suffering significantly from lower incomes, homeownership rates and taking on more debt than most other demographics. With so much to handle, retirement may be just a dream for many of the individuals reaching this age group.

Not good news is it? But this is a message I have been hammering on about and that marketers should understand. Let me say it again. In the future there will be a small group of well-off older people (around 20%) with the remainder having a hard time financially. Understand that and act accordingly. Dick Stroud

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