"That's perhaps one of the geniuses in the way the village movement has been set up, because it takes into account the fact that we are all aging in different ways with different needs at different times.
People said, you cannot retire on Beacon Hill. It just won't work. You have bricks to fall on, stairs to climb, and that's not appropriate for older people. And my answer to that is that, if I stop climbing stairs, I won't be able to climb stairs." (emphasis mine)
Susan McWhinney-Morse: Founding Member, Beacon Hill Village in "There's No Place Like Home: Seniors Hold on to Urban Independence Into Old Age" from PBS Newshour, August 8, 2013
Beacon Hill Village is "a member-driven organization for Boston residents 50 and over, provides programs and services so members can lead vibrant, active and healthy lives, while living in their own homes and neighborhoods." There are now 110 of these organizations across the U.S. and over 200 currently in development. This aging in place movement is yet more evidence that 2020 may come and go without a housing crisis sparked by aging baby boomers stampeding into a "Senior Sell-Off."
"The Village," as it is affectionately called by members, and groups like it, are living examples of the strong preferences many senior citizens have to stay in familiar communities, near long-time friends, and surrounded by cherished memories. I stumbled upon this story while casually flipping my radio to the local Public Broadcasting Service station. The story caught my attention because of the time I have spent in the past few months casting doubt on the theory of a Senior Sell-Off that plunges the housing market into a fresh crisis, capping off the changing and aging demographics in America. Reporter Ray Suarez interviewed Beacon Hill Village members who gush about the benefits of the organization which include services at the residences of members. For example, one active 78-year old woman talks about how she found herself needing the organization even more after her partner passed away. She now does all the things she used to do, and more, before he got sick.
The organization is not cheap, of course. Beacon Hill Village started 10 years ago with an $80,000 investment. It now needs to raise $200,000 in charitable donations every year to keep the organization running. Members pay $100 to $1000 annually based on their financial circumstances. Certainly, the key to growth, sustainability, and viability for aging in place organizations is to figure out workable financial models. I am guessing the private sector will also increasingly find ways to serve this movement.
The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) provides an extensive checklist of remodeling considerations to accommodate seniors aging at home. The NAHB also provides a service for finding Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (OTCQB:CAPS) who can assist in these projects. There is a National Aging In Place Council that serves as a clearinghouse of related information and member organizations. AgingInPlace.com is yet another related resource. On that website, I found a short video clip of Harry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Clinton administration, where Cisneros claims that the vast majority of Americans will indeed age in place. The AARP conducts research on how best to support aging in place. For example, it recently completed a study on how high-speed internet can deliver much needed services to seniors aging at home. The AARP also provides a "toolkit" for assisting local communities in planning for an aging population. It includes the claim that "an overwhelming number [of aging baby boomers] want to age in place, in their homes and communities."
In other words, the U.S. is getting ready for its aging population. The crest of aging baby boomers is not likely to catch the housing market (recall the commentary from Toll Brothers (TOL) management in its last earnings call) or communities by surprise. While the housing market will always rise and fall with economic cycles, it does not seem likely to me that changing demographics will cause a fresh housing crisis. In fact, in the coming years, I think it will be very profitable to invest in those companies and builders who develop business models around serving the aging in place movement. Stay tuned on that….
Be careful out there!