(This is part 1 of a 4 part series.) When it comes to housing and communities, the Boomers and Millennials share many of the same needs and wants. Maybe we can build homes and communities that work for both?
It seems like a crazy thing to think about, but surely you've run across a comment from a demographer or industry analyst somewhere that points out the similarities between Boomers and Millennials. I know I have. And maybe those seemingly crazy similarities are a bigger deal than we thought.
So I have been keeping my eyes open for examples of how these two groups, the two largest demographic cohorts in history, are viewing the issue of homes and community.
Here's just one observation on one topic where Boomers and Millennials are both on the same page.
The Maker Movement
The way I have heard the dawning of the Maker Movement described to me is that it originated in tech, with smart computer wizards hacking into hardware and software to make it do things other than what it was intended to do. Apparently they have their own magazine and meet-ups now, and it has earned official status as a Thing.
Coming from that nascent interest in making their own things, or alongside it, is this Maker Movement of a lower-tech variety, where young Moms are knitting sweaters for their kids, and canning vegetables from the garden in the backyard. Sewing clothes is coming back as a legit pastime for Millennials, and Millennial men are gardening, building things in the wood shop with tools, cooking quite complex Foodie meals, and tinkering with old cars. Tool-lending libraries (a growth retail sector in the USA) are evidence of this trend towards wanting to make stuff. And so are bread-baking and cooking classes and the like.
But the Millennials didn't invent all this stuff. The Boomers did, and in most cases they got it from their parents who really had no choice. The Boomer's parents had to make clothes and food and furniture because, well, that's how you got your clothes and food and furniture. In my book The Stackable Boomer we surveyed 1000 Boomers about the move to multi-family condos and apartments in more dense urban environments, and while the data showed that cutting the lawn and doing household chores was one reason to leave the homestead behind for the chore-free life of a condo/apartment, one thing that was going to be missed was the tool wall in the garage, and the ability to spend Saturday afternoon in the garden.
So, if Millennials, who, it seems, largely would like to stay in higher-density urban environments while they raise a family (if they choose to go that route) are interested in carpentry and gardening and sewing and bread-baking, that's great, because so are the Boomers. What would we have to do with our buildings and our communities and our internal and external amenities and programming to make this happen? And imagine the wonderful connections and social interaction that would ensue if you had a condo tower or townhouse complex where baking bread in the community kitchen became a regular Saturday morning event? And why can't the strata or the building manager have a tool-lending library, if we built in a wood-working shop, when Boomer Dads could teach Millennial Dads how to make a chair or a doll-house or a shelf? Conversely, those Millennials could certainly show the Boomers how to navigate the latest release of Apple's operating system, or how to use SquareSpace to launch a website.
Research from multiple sources shows that social interaction is the key to a long and happy life. My own research with 1000 Baby Boomers showed that one of the biggest fears they have about moving away from the family home in the suburbs is that they won't fit in, and will find it hard to meet people. If we can mix Boomers and Millennials in multi-family condos/apartments, and provide amenity spaces with simple programming, we will make everyone happier and healthier. Not a bad outcome.
(This is the first in a series of posts that deal with this subject: watch this space for more.)