Designing for baby boomers must reflect their core values while bringing greater attention to health
By Sophia Acevedo
With age comes wisdom and a sense of practicality that just can’t be replicated. As people who have experienced several major events in history—like the Vietnam War, Space Race and Civil Rights Movement—baby boomers, those born between 1946 to 1964, have experienced a lot.
They’ve experienced so much that they may not be as phased as other generations by our most current worldly issue—the coronavirus pandemic—and how something so unexpected has decided to reevaluate whatever semblance of normalcy we once had. Instead, they may view it as another part of life, yet another hurdle that can be overcome.
Therefore, new home design for baby boomers will need to be approached in the same practical manner that reflects this pragmatic generation. Rather than focusing on uprooting everything in a sense of momentary panic, baby boomer living needs to reflect a balance between keeping what’s most important to them while putting a greater emphasis on health. In this way, they are able to sustain a bright future years to come.
A record of 64 million Americans lived in multigenerational households in 2018 according to Pew Research Data. In this case, Pew Research has defined multigenerational households as those that include homes with grandparents and grandchildren or homes that have at least two different generations of family.
For homes with multiple family members that are from different generations, the needs of one generation can’t be emphasized while the rest are ignored. Older generations believe that family is important and it is perhaps one of their most cherished values. Hence, when it comes to baby boomers, family oriented designs have to stay in mind for architects and designers.
For example, there needs to be a continued commitment to making shared spaces between family members that are comfortable and spacious. This doesn’t just need to apply for multigenerational homes; it can also be applied to retirement communities and other homes as well. Additional protocol that aligns with COVID-19 guidelines should be applied, but these spaces shouldn’t be eliminated or worse, made to feel uncomfortable or incredibly stoic in design, as these spaces are a vital reflection of what matters to this generation.
Technology at the Forefront
One design trend that can positively (and not dramatically) change baby boomer living while still adhering to post COVID-19 life is the incorporation of more technology. According to 2019 data from Pew Research, 68% of baby boomers own a smartphone and 52% own a tablet computer, a sign that they aren’t technology adverse at all.
Hence, incorporating touchless features is a practical solution that addresses health concerns as long as it is not completely reinventing everything that is known about the home. After all, baby boomers didn’t grow up with technology like younger generations, so they are not as glued to it as the younger generations, however, they can still reap its benefits.
Technology can also provide additional means of entertainment, which can be extremely helpful during these cooped up times when days at home can become mundane.
Another trend that can be addressed without having to reinvent baby boomer living is putting a greater emphasis on the outdoor living environment.
According to The National Survey on Recreation and Environment, boomers “were introduced at a young age to a wider array of outdoor recreation opportunities than were their parents.” As a result, the report notes that experts believe baby boomers have continued to express their appreciation for the outdoors as they’ve gotten older.
With an appreciation for the outdoors, it’s important that designers and architects highlight outdoor space and make it accessible for baby boomers. This doesn’t require a complete redesign in the home; instead, it focuses on an area in design that will be impactful for a baby boomer’s mental health during this time while also expressing that their love for nature is important too. That right there is the key.
The Bottom Line
Overall, designers and architects can address new needs due to the pandemic without eliminating the core values of life that are ideal tenets to focus on in design and architecture. This viewpoint will be crucial when designing for baby boomers, who understand that changes can be made to adapt to a “new normal” without having to sacrifice everything that everyone knows.
Through reasonable adjustments and an emphasis on what matters most, designers can find what works best for baby boomers without making them feel like they’re having everything unnecessarily baby proofed in the process.
Sophia Acevedo is the assistant editor at Builder and Developer Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.