MMS strategic director Andy Walton asks whether housebuilders are simply overlooking the housing aspirations of the UK's wealthiest target group...

It's a fact that the UK – along with other developed nations – has a population which is ageing at a phenomenal rate.

The baby boomers, those now in their 50s and 60s, are some of the wealthiest in the country; they have a full bank balance and an empty nest, so are effectively sitting targets for developers.

But are developers building the right type of home for the so-called 'golden generation'? New homes marketing agency MMS believes that there are some incredible opportunities and, crudely, profits to be made from designing just the right style of property for those who certainly aren't ready to move to a retirement complex.

Building to stereotypes

Andy Walton, strategic director at MMS, comments: "Developers could be missing a trick. Latest census information* has revealed that those over 50 years of age are owners of 11 million UK homes compared to 25-34 year olds who own just under a quarter of that figure. Each year, only 4,000 homes are built for the over 60s, but I believe that developers have been building to stereotypes for too long.

"Today, 60 is the new 40, and those at that age are wealthier, more active, more aspirational and have a greater amount of time on their hands than ever before."

Crude groups

So, how well do developers truly know their audience? How much research and time is spent thinking about home design of the future and who is demonstrating that they are designing homes for the lifestyle and aspirations of this group?

"Is anyone?" adds Walton. "Buyers are lumped into crude groups of 'first-time buyers', 'families' and 'retirees'. This misses an affluent and growing group of empty-nesters who have the financial wherewithal to create a living space that is unique to them and their lifestyle. This 'resizing' should be a really empowering opportunity to make a change to a lifestyle all about leisure, with little compromise in terms of expenditure."

Forward-thinking

Lennar's work in the US could be one clue as to what the elements of this home could comprise. Their next generation 'Home within a Home' concept is a great example which takes the living needs of the future firmly in mind.

They are adaptable and flexible, they grow with the owner and consider the long-term living needs of them and their extended family – whether it's the kids who have returned from university and can't afford a place of their own, or long-stay friends.

The typical 'Home within a Home' Lennar house incorporates self-contained living space which is completely separate – and comes complete with its own private front door – yet has an adjoining entrance into the main body of the house, which allows for interaction yet privacy at the same time.

In contrast, these properties can also be shut off and effectively downsized according to the family's needs. The important point is that they are highly flexible.

Re-shaping home design

"This isn't just a case of a 'Campaign for Housing in Later Life'. The harsh reality is that there needs to be a fundamental step change in home design of the future that will appeal and tap into the potentially lucrative baby boomer market – those who are cash and time rich and are open and ready to new ways of living that will give them the best quality of life, both now and for years to come.

"Today, half of the population is aged over 50 and by the year 2020, they will own 80 per cent of the nation's wealth. There are huge profits to be made from the ageing phenomenon – it's a marketeer's dream. The question is who will be the first to seize this opportunity and begin to re-shape home design of the future for this niche audience."

*2011 Census statistics