Live Well Longer: Designing Homes for 55+ Active Adult Homebuyers

55+ homes designs should focus on main level living

At KGA, we believe in taking a holistic approach to designing homes for 55+ buyers. This means not only addressing questions of accessibility and mobility, but also designing homes to support health, mind and well-being. Affordability also plays an important role, and in many cases contributes to the “stuck in place” effect. The reality is that this buyer will eventually be on a fixed income, which must be factored in when considering both the purchase price and the cost to maintain the home.

We’ve broken out design considerations for 55+ targeted homes into 4 main categories: lifestyle; satisfaction & happiness; evolving needs; and easy organization & management. Keeping these 4 categories in mind will help you create effective and successful home designs for active adult buyers.

Lifestyle Considerations for 55+ Targeted Home Designs

Lifestyle is an important motivating factor for prospective homebuyers, especially active adults. Offering homes that cater to their current lifestyle needs is a good way to differentiate yourself.

Healthy Living & Activity

Encourage healthy habits through design. Dedicated exercise spaces make it easy to get a work-out in. A well-equipped kitchen with plenty of space for storing fruits and vegetables and counter space for juicing or canning makes it that much easier to embrace healthy habits. Back kitchens are a great way to incorporate extra storage and counter space.

Social Interaction

The 55+ buyer is at a time in their life when social interaction and connectedness is more important than ever. Even though they are downsizing, give them a home they will be proud to show-off to family and friends! Open floorplans, which are popular across all demographics, are perfect for entertaining. Keep in mind that this buyer is more likely to appreciate a space for the dining room table.

Security & Safety

Safety and security are important concerns for 55+ buyers. Make home security systems a standard feature, offer them as an optional upgrade, or at the very least, make sure the home is prepped for easy installation. Don’t be afraid to incorporate technology: things like doorbell cameras and smart locks are appreciated by this buyer.

Open kitchen with white cabinets
Even in homes meant for downsizing, never skimp on the kitchen. Pictured: 39′ Patio Villa by KGA Studio Architects, PC.

Satisfaction & Happiness

This buyer is often going through a transitional time in life, moving from a focus on career and raising children to planning for retirement and what the next stage in life will bring. It’s their time to focus on them. While price is definitely a consideration, this buyer appreciates good design and is often willing to splurge a bit to get what they want.

Outdoor Spaces

55+ buyers might be sick of doing yard work, but they still want a connection to the outdoors. An outdoor room with a zero-step connection to the inside is a great option. We especially like over-sized or corner-meet sliding glass doors, which allow you to open up the home to the outside, letting in fresh air and creating an environment that encourages social interaction.

Natural Light

Natural light encourages productivity and is a great mood booster. Make sure the home has plenty of windows to let in natural light! In higher density settings, strategically placed windows maintain privacy while still letting in light.

Support Life Goals

Now is the time to pursue interests that have taken a backseat to career or raising a family. A project room or workshop in the garage are perfect places to pursue hobbies. A dedicated packing center and lock-off caretaker’s suite encourage travel.

I Deserve it Features

This buyer has worked hard their entire life, and they are ready to splurge a little on themselves. ‘I deserve it’ features are the details that make your designs memorable: a well-appointed kitchen or luxurious spa master bath. Project rooms and spacious owner’s entries are also great options.

Pets

Even when downsizing, we can’t forget about furry family members. Make sure there is a safe, enclosed space for dogs to go outside. It doesn’t have to be large, just functional. For our feline friends, is there a good place to put a litter box? We love the idea of creating a closet with a separate, motion activated ventilation system for the litter box.

Valencia Master Bathroom
Zero-step entry showers are both highly sought after ‘I deserve it’ features and easily accessible to everyone. Pictured: The Valencia by KGA Studio Architects, PC.

Planning Ahead for Evolving Needs

Today’s 55+ buyers want to maintain their independence for as long as possible. By planning ahead, they’re able to give themselves the best chance for success.

Sustained “Live in Place” Opportunities 

Active adult buyers are planning ahead. Accessibility might not be important now, but it could be in the future. Eliminate the need for stairs with main level living or make stairs more manageable with a midpoint landing. In homes with multiple levels, provide an elevator or rough-in space where an elevator could easily be installed in the future. Make sure doors, hallways and closets are wide enough for wheel chair access. Provide at least one zero-step entry shower with a bench and grab bar.

55+ Targeted Home Designs Should be Flexible

Plans should be flexible and offer a variety of options to accommodate different situations without changing over-all pricing thresholds. 55+ active adult buyers are a large and varied group, addressing a variety of life situations is key:

  • Boomerang kids or parents
  • Multi-generational households
  • Non-related cohabitation
  • Grandkids
  • Caretaker
  • Still working

Easy Organization and Life Management

Active adult homebuyers are looking for ways to make their life easier. From less maintenance to plentiful storage opportunities, consider these ideas when designing homes for 55+ buyers.

Low Maintenance Homes

55+ buyers are looking for as little maintenance as possible. Think low-maintenance exteriors and little or no yard work. How much will it cost to maintain? How much will it cost to heat and cool the home? This buyer will eventually be on a fixed income, so it is important to make every penny count. Use durable materials that are easy to maintain and won’t need to be replaced often. They want to be able to ‘lock and leave’ on a spur of the moment adventure without worrying about their home.

Right Sizing / Room Count

If there is one thing the tiny home movement has taught us, it’s that it is all about well-designed, quality spaces over quantity. Offer a variety of secondary room options and never, ever skimp on the kitchen. Ever. In Colorado, where basements are common, optional finished basements are a great way to offer additional space while keeping the home’s footprint small.

Organization

Opportunities for storage and organization are appreciated by this buyer. Make storage easier to access with pull-out drawers. It’s all about convenience and ease-of-access. Great examples that stand out with this buyer are a well-designed owner’s entry or laundry room.

Design Features that Provide Ease-of-living Considerations

This buyer is looking for design features that look great AND serve their needs for aging-in-place. Think plenty of stylish task lighting and lighting paths throughout the home, contrasting floor and countertop materials in the kitchen and lever action hardware throughout the home. Zero-step entry spa showers are also a great example of style meets function – easily accessible for everyone, and many have a built-in bench. Just add a good-looking grab bar!

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