Few would argue that the shockwave known as the baby boomers reshaped many of the cultural norms on how Americans lived, worked and ultimately retired. Twenty-five years from now, however, the last of the 75 million boomers will have exited the workforce, while the front end of the 80 million echo boomers (aka the millennial generation) will be approaching age 60; although by then, 60 will be the new 40. While these generations have had radically different life experiences, and this pattern will likely continue in retirement, some reasonable guesses can be made about the future wants and needs of these retirees, empty nesters or downsizers.
Moving in, moving up, but not moving on
Considered the father, or now the grandfather, of active adult communities, Del Webb's Sun City, with its 26,000 homes, hundreds of activities and, at the time, a location 15 miles outside of Phoenix, is viewed as the vanguard of so-called active adult communities. And while there will always be demand for this type of destination community, the future of active-adult living will include a wide variety of designs and lifestyle offerings.
By choice or by need, people will be working longer, so closer proximity to the city center will be an important consideration for active adult home buyers. A more urban location means that communities will be smaller and that midrise and high rise living will see increased levels of demand. In such locations, the surrounding environment becomes the primary amenity, as homeowners take advantage of the cultural and recreational opportunities located right outside their door. And while robot boxing and aerial-drone combat may be all the rage in 25 years, countless opportunities for true physical fitness will continue to be a must.
Along with working longer, the idea of life-time learning, which is so important to today's boomers, will continue, so the term "senior housing" will take on an entirely new meaning in college towns like Ann Arbor, Mich., Austin, Texas, and Chapel Hill, N.C., which could see an influx of demand.
(Read more: Retirement 101: College towns lure boomers)
Many people are not aware of the growing relationship between so-called active adults and the world of technology. Seniors use their personal computers and smartphones for research, for online shopping, for travel information and for news. Social media like Facebook have been adopted to stay in touch with children and grandchildren in today's wired world. With each new generation of active adults, technology seems to become more and more relevant.
And there is no doubt that millennials will pick up their parents' environmental banner, so energy efficiency and space optimization will be high on the list of tomorrow's active adult buyers.
(Read more: Younger buyers jumping into retirement real estate)
For all the changes that may evolve in terms of location and product offering, what won't change is this buyer's desire for personal connection. At the core of every successful active adult community are the people who share a sense of common experiences and a desire to fill every day with life, laughter and a good glass of bourbon.
—By Richard J. Dugas Jr., chairman, president and CEO, PulteGroup Inc., and Stuart A. Miller, CEO, Lennar Corp. Both companies are leading builders of so-called active adult communities for retirees.