Silver-Haired Tsunami

From a business operations standpoint, the knock against some remodelers is a persistent unwillingness to work on their businesses. Their natural tendency is to roll up their sleeves and work in their businesses.

For example, instead of writing job descriptions and planning for key hires to help grow their business, this type of remodeler might remedy a personnel shortage by stepping in and handling administrative or construction tasks. The work gets done but a long-term solution remains elusive. Thinking and planning ahead can be an owner’s most valuable contribution to a business, particularly at times like these when the remodeling market is growing at a slower pace than usual.

One of the key tools for planning ahead should be demographics. By studying population groups, a lot can be revealed about our shared futures. Specifically, it can give us a good idea who will be remodeling their homes in the years and decades ahead. William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, formerly with the University of Michigan is a particular favorite of mine. His most recent report, Mapping the Growth of Older America: Seniors and Boomers in the Early 21st Century, brings new light not only to the growing numbers of seniors (ages 65 and older) and “pre-seniors” (ages 55 to 64), it also maps the states, counties and cities where most will migrate or continue to live. Between now and 2010, the “sunbelt” states in the Rockies and Southeast will experience the largest surge in seniors. Meanwhile, the Midwest, Plains and Northeast states will see the smallest growth in seniors. But “pre-senior populations are growing everywhere,” says Frey.
Often referred to as the Silver Tsunami, the coming wave of older Americans will first break on our shores beginning 2011, when the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation passes age 65.

“While not uniformly wealthy, ‘young seniors’ aged 65 to 74 do tend to be healthier and in a better economic position than older seniors, and more likely to enjoy a high-consumption lifestyle,” says Frey in his report. “Today’s pre-seniors possess more education, have more women in the labor force, are more likely to occupy professional and managerial positions, and are more racially and ethnically diverse than their predecessors. These characteristics indicate that Boomers, both men and women, may stay involved in work and other intellectual pursuits longer than previous retiree generations; some are already retiring or semi-retiring by taking ‘bridge jobs’ on a path toward less work.”

It would be wise for all remodelers to understand how to meet the lifestyle needs of active, but older Americans, who are aging-in-place. Some remodelers may even choose to build their businesses around this need. The silver tsunami is coming.