|Seniors, boomers 'right-sizing'
They are legion. They are aging. And they'll be changing addresses
in droves in the coming years.
After holding down the family homestead for decades,
thousands of American seniors are charting a course to "right-size"
In fact, the U.S. is expected to have 116 million adults aged 50 and
older by 2010. And studies are showing that a huge segment of this
influential group will soon move after retirement, and not just to
Florida or a traditional retirement facility.
As new medical technologies extend seniors' independence,
many will opt for active communities, condos or apartments, small-lot
homes or varied assisted-care offerings.
But they will need help getting there.
About half of all U.S. homeowners 65 or older have
lived in their houses for 25 years or more, says the senior advocacy
group AARP, and many will feel like strangers in a strange land
when it comes time to move.
"They are sitting in their homes, where they have
been for decades, and they don't know who to trust or where to turn,"
said Ted Field, founder of Edina Realty Senior Services near Minneapolis.
"And they hear stories about all these seniors who have been taken
That's where Field, one of growing number of Seniors
Housing Marketing Specialists (SHMS) in the country, comes in.
Specialists for older home buyers
The SHMS designation, created five years ago in California, was
launched to help agents shepherd the growing number of aging homeowners
through the daunting process of selling or buying a home, and with
sensitivity and patience. "It's a major life change that you have
to handle with respect," Field said
Currently, only about 1 percent of real estate agents
have an SHMS designation, despite projections that the number of
U.S. seniors will double to 70 million over the next 30 years, Field
said. That's in part because seniors are viewed as "move-down" buyers
who relocate only to rental units, effectively knocking agents out
of half their commission, agents tell Field.
One of the biggest challenges for the older seniors
is to depart their existing homes with a sense of independence and
the assurance they are doing the right thing in the right way, Field
But Fields says he does quite well with the senior
set and is willing to wait months or even years for older sellers
to acknowledge they are ready to move out of their cherished homes.
"It's a great niche. I won't be running out of seniors
until I am one myself, and that's only because I'll be retired."
Next to the death of a loved one,
a move out of the family home is generally the most emotional experience
seniors will endure, said Don Redfoot, a senior policy adviser for
AARP. "It is not only leaving your home, it is giving up a place
than contains the memories and relationships of a lifetime.
Too often there's a tendency in families to discount
the wishes of an older person in this process, said Redfoot. "Most
want to remain in control and independent, even if they are experiencing
a disability. They really don't want to move in with other family