Mature buyers used to be viewed by much of the industry as something of an afterthought. These consumers weren’t seen as investing in major kitchen and bath remodels in great numbers – certainly not the way the baby boomers did, with their growing families, growing incomes and desire to keep up with (or surpass) the Jones. Nor were they viewed as offering the same opportunity as young consumers, who, despite limited disposable income, tended toward more creative designs and lots of technology, with the added bonus of potentially being customers for many decades to come.
But with the aging of America, that’s all changing. Older consumers are remodeling in higher numbers than in years past – surpassing other age demographics for the first time ever, according to several recent studies.
So why the remodeling rush among the senior set? For one thing, studies show that older consumers were far less likely to have lost big money during the economic upheaval of the past few years, with many starting with a larger financial cushion from many years in the work force, while also having made safer investment choices over the last few years.
On top of that, older consumers are living longer, working longer, staying in their homes longer and more fashion forward than in years past. So while they want accessible storage, better lighting and products that will help them age in place, they also want stylish products that are durable, low-maintenance and well suited for entertaining family. Comfort is important, but so is adding elements they may never have gotten to enjoy before, creating a fantasy bath escape, or experimenting with contemporary kitchen design instead of traditional.
Below is a small sampling of what kitchen and bath designers across the nation see as in high demand from baby boomer clients:
“Our clients definitely want more storage space (i.e. replacing dressing tables with drawer cabinets). Design simplicity is also a growing trend with this demographic. Project cost and customer service (follow through) are important project elements.”
“Most of the work we’re doing with the 70+ crowd is in updating outdated systems and surfaces, and gently suggesting any number of aging-in-place retrofits that will extend their time in the homes they love.”
“Mature homeowners are most concerned about accessibility, while still having a nice clean look.”
“Budget is important for this group, however, among the few who go all out, contemporary design is at the top of their list. Our showroom displays emphasize the ability to combine safety with good design. Color, texture and proportion are among the important elements.”
“My mature customers want to be directed. All decision making at this stage in life takes more time, more debate and compromise with the spouses. I am especially patient with this group, which can be slow to develop confidence in our company and our wealth of knowledge in the industry. They love granite, undermount sinks, air-switch disposals, under-cabinet lighting, decorative corbels, and the little things they never considered. This group is my favorite, their appreciation for our professionalism is unmatched and most fulfilling.”
From New Hampshire:
“I would say the trend that I am seeing in the mature home owner is leaning toward a more contemporary design. Clean, sleek, straight lines, bold colors. They are not looking to more ornate or traditional looks as in the past.”
“Older consumers want ergonomic applications throughout the house, easy care products and finishes, better lighting and energy and water efficient products”
From New York:
“Most people are being practical. They are concerned with warranties, where products are made (U.S. vs. China, etc) and inquire about customer support should something go wrong. Most people are happy to shop in a showroom with a dedicated showroom.”
“Hot trends with this age group are simplicity, quality over quantity and multiple generation entertaining. Our ‘Silver Community’ wants everything bright and light, and timeless.”
“We have found that mature homeowners are wanting quality – even at the added expense. The plumbing fixtures are either nickel or bronze for the most part. These clients still like their granite, but will mix in some quartz materials on surrounding countertops. In the kitchen, we have also been doing a few more custom hoods as well as comfortable built-in seating where they can be surrounded by people when they are in the kitchen. They also look for varying degrees of lighting in both bath and kitchen with lots of dimmers.”
“Our mature clientele seem to favor ease of use or increased functionality. Regardless of the plan elements, which lean heavily toward traditional elements, added convenience accessories are a given regardless. Granite seems to remain a popular countertop choice in the age group.”
“I’m still selling oak cabinets to the more mature client. I do notice a gravitation towards oak and quarter-sawn oak. As far as important factors, I notice they want to keep the storage where it is currently. They know they need to update their home for resale value, but they do not want to ‘re-learn’ their kitchen.”
From Rhode Island:
“They are modifying their existing homes to age in place – comfort height toilets, grab bars, curb-ess showers, shower seats, faucets that are easy to operate, etc. They also want low-maintenance products.”
Author, editor, speaker and TV personality with 20+ years of experience spanning magazine and book publishing, TV, radio and the Web.
Specializing in the home design and dog industries, Janice is the Editor-in-Chief of Kitchen & Bath Design News & Owner/Founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY LLC.
This article is reprinted with permission from Kitchen & Bath Design News.