Homebuilders Target Baby Boomers with New Amenities and Activities

The economic recession and the housing depression will cause many Baby Boomers to push back retirement several years, but that doesn't mean they're not still eyeing and buying homes built specifically for retirees.

Home Construction
Home Construction

Builders of these "active adult communities" are therefore changing some of their models to reflect homeowners who don't need 9-5 entertainment, but might want 5-9, both a.m. and p.m., activities.

"It's a shift in the programming at the most elemental level," says Caryn Klebba, spokeswoman for Pulte Homes' Del Webb division which specializes in communities for older Americans in 21 states.

In addition to more educational programs connected to its communities, Klebba says Del Webb's fitness programs have dramatically changed. "It's the desire to have the mind and body reach the finish line at the same time."

Del Webb just released findings from a new survey of Baby Boomers, half turning 50 and half turning 64. It found that despite all the economic concerns, many boomers are still planning to move as they "retire", and of those planning to move, 50 percent say they will move out of state.

While Florida and Arizona still rank in the top ten, the top two destination for Boomers are the Carolinas. Those surveyed cited cost of living and access to health care as most important.

Builders are also paying attention to the new needs of these retirees who are not actually retiring, but perhaps re-careering. Younger Boomers (known as 'Trailing Edge' Boomers, born between 1955 and 1964) are looking for more technology-heavy features in their homes, while older Boomers (known as 'Leading-Edge' Boomers, born between 1946 and 1954) want single-story floor plans, according to a survey by MetLife Mature Market Institute.

But one big difference between older and younger boomers is the desire for home services and community services.

"Very telling," says John Migliaccio, director of research at MetLife's Institute, "is that the younger group of mature consumers reported enthusiastically that they want services like home maintenance and repair as part of their next home purchase, along with services typically connected to older homeowners, such as housekeeping, onsite health care and transportation.

And that survey found that all those features are actually more important to today's boomers than organized social activities. This goes back to Del Webb's finding that retired Baby Boomers will not really be retired at all. They may want to move into these communities, but about 75 percent say they will still remain some part of the workforce. That's up from 68 percent when Del Webb began doing this survey 14 years ago.

Seniors jogging
Source: Westend61 | Getty Images
Seniors jogging

"Our communities are now offering skydiving, hiking, pilates, all to keep the mind and body physically fit," says Klebba who also points to several programs Del Webb shares with local universities.

Experts say college and university towns are excellent places to retire, because they offer many cultural and community service choices, efficient transportation and lots of educational offerings, even for non-students.

So, as they begin to leave the workforce and embark on the next chapter of their lives, some Boomers may find themselves going full-circle: They will migrate to locations similar to where they spent their academic, pre-career years—places that bring back fond memories and offer plenty of post-career activities to keep this restless generation busy.

Watch "Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomer$!", Thursday, March 4 at 9pm ET on CNBC. The program will also air Saturday, March 6 at 7pm ET; Sunday, March 7th at 9pm ET; and Monday, March 8th at 8pm ET.