Baby Boomers will see their family structures change as their parents age, according to experts who spoke at the National Association of Home Builders’ Building for Boomers & Beyond: 50+ Housing Symposium 2007. Builders, architects and trend-spotters indicated that Boomer lifestyle changes will continue to influence the home building industry for the foreseeable future.

“Boomers will drive housing for at least the next 20 years,” said closing session speaker Tim Sullivan, president of San Diego-based Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors.  

According to NAHB’s current economic and housing forecast, housing units sold to or occupied by 55+ households will account for more 370,000 housing starts in 2007. Households headed by someone age 55 or older account for 21 percent of new home sales and 18 percent of the total new home buying market. Fifty-five-plus communities, including both age-qualified and nonage-qualified, account for about six percent of the home buying market.

“There are more elderly people everywhere on earth,” said foresight and global trends consultant Andrew Zolli, who gave the symposium’s keynote speech. “People are living longer and having fewer children,” he continued, noting that the United States now has the largest number of older and younger people in its history, creating an “hourglass” that will affect the workforce, healthcare and culture.

Increased longevity means that many people will have to work longer than they planned, and that companies will see a rise in older, yet healthy and energetic employees. Boomers will take advantage of this “longevity bonus,” said Sullivan, by creating a whole new life stage that is neither all work nor all leisure.

At a symposium press conference on green building, builder John Kurowski of Denver and architect Ed Hord, AIA, of Baltimore discussed ways in which green building is beneficial to people over 50.

“So many of the principals of green building are wonderful for this market,” explained Kurowski. “Low VOC materials are better for older lungs, especially now that houses are being built tighter.” People living on fixed incomes, as many seniors do, benefit from the lower energy costs that can result from energy-efficient appliances and building practices, added Hord.

Changing boomer lifestyles will present new opportunities for industries that cater to the new home market. In particular, the healthcare needs of the aging population will create a huge co-branding opportunity for healthcare providers to partner with home builders to embed healthcare services into new homes, according to Zolli. He also suggested that there may be an increase in demand for “longevity insurance” from people who are living longer and fear that they may run out of money for retirement.