Baby boomers are the largest generation ever to retire (at around 74 million strong), and they’re continuing to alter just about everything in their wake—not the least of which are the real estate and design worlds.
When it comes to amenities and home upgrades, the members of the “me generation” know exactly what they want for their forever homes, and that matters to home builders and sellers looking to appeal to the widest audience.
“From my experience, baby boomers are at a life stage where they are ready to elevate their lifestyle with their home upgrades,” says Tracy Wick, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist in Novi, MI. That means modern conveniences that focus on comfort and luxury.
To pinpoint the exact home upgrades boomers crave, we spoke to the experts and asked them to break down why these features are desirable and how they can add value.
Open floor plans
Millennials aren’t the only ones who crave unfettered space—boomers also see the value in an open floor plan. An expansive layout can be great for everything from entertaining friends to letting grandkids run loose.
“Baby boomers are giving up formal living spaces and are opting for a versatile and open concept floor plan, a space known as the great room,” says Gena Kirk, KB Home VP of Design in Aliso Viejo, CA. “Two very popular spaces are connected—the kitchen and living areas—and that becomes the hub of the home.”
Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers in Hinsdale, IL, says the ability to easily move around their home as they age is also a big focus for boomers.
“Baby boomers like the idea of open floor plans, because they’re seeking safety and flexibility. The open floor plan allows for older individuals to customize their spaces as they age in place,” she says.
A renovated kitchen
Whether they’re buying a new home or renovating their own, many boomers love the idea of entertaining in the kitchen surrounded by friends and loved ones. “As more baby boomers choose to age in place, function continues to be an important factor in the design of the home, and the kitchen is definitely an area they are focused on,” says Kirk.
They have a preference for open kitchen layouts, larger windows, and upgraded countertops made of natural stone or quartz.
Kirk says boomers are seeking a well-designed home that matches their lifestyle and that incorporates features like lower cabinets, hands-free faucets, and pull-out pantries for storage.
Bathrooms like spas
You reach a certain point in life when you just want to slow down, relax, and have a “Calgon, Take Me Away” moment in your bathroom. “Baby boomers want their bathroom to be a sanctuary, where they can unwind at the end of a long day,” says Kirk.
Wick says bathrooms are one of the top features she sees boomers upgrading. Free-standing tubs, smart toilets with integrated bidets, enlarged showers with built-in seats, rain pan showerheads, and steam showers are all hot bathroom upgrades they choose.
Other popular features include remote options to fill the tub and adjust water temperature, mood lighting on vanities, or statement lighting fixtures like chandeliers.
“Some boomers are removing the bathtub in their master bath altogether, to have a more expansive—and accessible—feel in their bathroom,” says Buysse.
Smart tech at your fingertips
As people age, tech upgrades can actually make it easier to live independently. Smart amenities like security systems, heat and air conditioning, motion sensor light switches and faucets, and even built-in pet feeding systems are popular among boomers.
“Technology dominates every aspect of our lives, regardless of age,” says Buysse. “Some boomers are installing technology devices and services, or creating a smart home now, to possibly eliminate the need and cost for in-home care in the future.”
Kirk says her baby boomer clients are most interested in smart security systems such as Nest, to ensure their home is protected.
Boomers relish the great outdoors—especially in their own backyard. “They truly enjoy natural settings, and they seek to entertain, cook, relax, and play in their finished outdoor spaces, whether it’s a patio, deck, lanai, courtyard, or porch,” says Buysse.
She says most older home buyers are looking for an outdoor space that expands their overall living area, something that functions like an interior space or “outdoor room.”
This can include an outdoor grilling area, comfortable seating, and low-maintenance landscaping.
“Baby boomers are opting to improve their outdoor living and entertaining spaces so they can better connect with their friends and family,” says Wick. “Outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and fireplaces are all features they are choosing to make an outdoor room a venue for gatherings.”