(This is part 3 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?
For my book The Stackable Boomer we surveyed 1000 Boomers about various aspects of their lives that impacted what they were looking for in a multi-family apartment or condo.
One thing that came out loud and clear was that they really had very little intention of retiring, at least in the way their parents used the word. After all, they feel 20 years younger than their chronological age would have you think, and keeping up with keeping up is one way to prove to themselves, and others, that they really are 40-year-olds cruelly trapped in a 65-year-old body. They may be leaving corporate life behind, but they will be consulting, volunteering on boards or with community groups, taking classes in art history or motorcycle mechanics, or learning how to program HTML. So, they need a workspace.
Now, while this whole post is a massive generalization with a very broad brush, this next thought might just be the most generalizationally statement of all: many of the Boomers are not fully at ease around technology. I mean, they know how to use a computer and all, but they need help if things go wrong, or if pesky new operating systems keep popping up demanding to be installed. Hold that last thought for moment while we talk about....
Millennials have an entirely different attitude to work than the generations that came before.
First off, they are not so hung up about getting one job at a great company and staying there until they eventually get a corner office with a potted fern, and finally a certificate (suitable for framing) thanking them for a lifetime of service to the corporation.
No, they may work for a company for some time, or part time, but they will also likely have a side-business or two, and maybe make some extra money as a DJ on the weekend when they aren't being a yoga instructor.
And the big difference with the Millennials, is that they are just fine with this. They prefer it. They don't want to be stuck in one job doing one thing for the rest of time. Consequently, the time they spend working vs. the time they spend not-working is more fluid. They may work some afternoons and a few mornings and all day Friday and Sunday around mid-day. They have friends who they work with, friends who work for them, and friends who they work for. The boundaries between work and not-work are very blurry, if they exist at all.
So as the Boomers are looking at integrating more kinds of work into their life, and including family and friends in their endeavours, the Millennials have been behaving this way since they began earning a living. Opportunity!
What could we do with this, as an industry charged with building homes and communities that work for both these groups? Within our buildings, maybe that big empty lounge with the billiards table and squishy sofas could be a co-working space with a coffee machine.
Co-working is the newest and hottest thing to hit, and it is perfectly suited for those who work in spurts and want people around sometimes and others times would rather be alone. More like a coffee shop or hipster study hall than an office, these places virtually force you to talk to other people around you.
And those Boomers with thick fingers when it comes to minor tech glitches? The Millennials all around them are a built in IT department. The Millennials struggling with a budgeting forecast or tax issue? I bet there's a retired chartered accountant or VP of finance in the room, who'd be glad to pass along some things she picked up over the years. Perhaps some simple skill-swapping board could be organized, so everyone knows what resources they have available to them, right there, at home.