Gray Power: Marketing to Canada’s Aging Population

Ever since the first baby of the post-Second World War generation arrived in the world, the ‘boomers’ have influenced every aspect of society and have pretty much had and done things their own way. Even now, as the leading edge of the generation has passed 55 years of age, nothing has changed, as affluent boomers are raising the bar on how and where they plan to live in their retirement years. According to a report of the Urban Futures Institute the aging Canadian population will consistently dominate real estate markets just about everywhere in the country.

Unlike previous generations who were more likely to move into smaller homes, eliminate mortgages and cash in their equity as retirement approached, the Freedom 55 generation, as it is sometimes called, is more likely to upgrade to more expensive properties, while assuming new mortgages. In 1999, 59% of Canadian homeowners between 45 and 54 years of age and 35% of those between 55 and 64 years of age held mortgages. In 2001, according to Statistics Canada information, those figures had risen to 61.6% and 39.1% respectively. In 2003 the ratio was 64.2%and 35.1%.

More expensive but not bigger properties, though not in all cases. There is a trend identified by the Institute for the boomers to make their way out of the suburbs and back into the city. And what do they want to find in the city? Fitness centres, fine restaurants, dancing and … yes, lots of people. The leading characteristic of the Freedom 55 generation is, according to the Institute, that they hate to be left alone. They are also going to be the happiest and heathiest generation of their age group in a long time, with a highly remarked hypocritical spirit. And who is going to be at the center of their hypocritical attention? The Federal Government (politicians beware ….), with women being the most vociferous.

The Urban Futures Institute prognosticates that in about twenty-five years one in three Canadians will be over the age of 65. As by then they will have become empty-nesters, they will trade down their 3,500 square-foot homes in the suburbs for high-class downtown condo living, thus driving prices upwards especially in the most expensive category. More and more the adult lifestyle component will be the major force impacting how condominium complexes will be conceived and built. It will impact developers, architects and contractors alike. And since the boomers are – and will continue to be tech savvy – high speed Internet, fiberoptics circuitry, satellite connections and electronic wizardry will be must-have accessories.
The Urban Futures Institute report concludes that it is going to be both a lifestyle and financial choice — closer to downtown means closer to established shopping, restaurants and entertainment and boomers are of the mind the location will offer more liquidity in the long-term.