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Bucking Trends: Age is Just a Number and More Seniors are Renting Rather Than Owning Their Homes

Words have meanings. They can quickly build-up or knock-down its recipients. One word emitting a great deal of comment is elderly. My father, an 82-year-old retiree, refuses to be identified as a senior. He prefers grey panther. He tells me that he wishes to be identified by the color of his hair, not his age.

Identity in the 50 plus range is a hot potato. People are living much longer than prior generations. 50 as the fashion magazines love to exclaim is the new 40. Is age a number or a feeling?

Is calling someone elderly or senior ageist?

Some argue, that yes indeed, the terms elderly or senior are ageist. Just because someone is 70 for example does not mean that they do not buy things, go on vacation, remain active, or increasingly work even if they are retired. Just this weekend the Guinness World Record to the oldest person in the world was set by Kane Tanaka a 116 year old Japanese woman living in Fukuoka, Japan. The best part of the story was that during the presentation ceremony for setting the world record, Ms. Kane was given a box of chocolate. She immediately opened the box and started eating the chocolates. When asked how many chocolates she wanted to eat on the presentation day she replied, “100.” A girl after my own heart.

One thing that is certain in these times is that people want to define themselves. Individuality, bucking trends, and being a disruptor are for more important to people than at anytime in history. So much of the marketing aimed at people over 50 is about maintaining their lifestyle as they age. Some 60-plus communities are more fun than a resort in Cancun during spring break.

Renting rather than owning

Another area where 60-plus people have bucked trends is in renting rather than owning their homes. Homeowner rates for people 65 and older dropped to 78.8% from 79.2% a year earlier. While the number itself is less than 1%, a deep dive reveals a more startling number. RentCafe, a real estate website, conducted a study and found that the number of renters over 60 has grown by 43% over the past decade, faster than any other group. By 2035, seniors will represent the second largest group of renters in the country or some 18.6 million units.

One of the main drivers for renting vs. owning is cost. An apartment is less costly to maintain than a house. Individuals with fixed incomes do not have to invest money in their home – the landlord is responsible for upkeep and maintenance. People find that their house is too much house for them and a spouse. Going up and down stairs may be difficult and there may also be other physical limitations that make living in a large home impractical as a person gets older.

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