PodcastConsumer and Home Design Trends

Evolving Age-Qualified Spaces: A Glimpse into Modern 55+ Communities

Dean Wehrli

Dean Wehrli

September 28, 2023

Call us obsessed with the 55+ housing space, but we do follow the demographics. The 55+ space enjoys a population bulge that has at least another decade run to it. This has enticed many folks to dip a toe in the water, but fewer have taken the full-body plunge. Though it is fueled by the demographics, the 55+ space is filled with savvy buyers and ever-changing wants and needs. This is definitely one of those “you need to do it right or don’t do it at all” things. It’s the definition of high risk but high reward.

Deborah Blake, Founder and Principal of The Ipsum Group, has been doing it right for a long time. From Sun City to Solera and beyond, Deborah has been in the trenches of age-qualified communities. She joins the podcast to discuss the kinds of homes you should build, what you should include in them, the amenities, the marketing, and the consumer. If you want to learn the tricks of the trade in this tricky housing space, spend the next hour with Deborah Blake.


Featured guest

Deborah Blake, Founder and Principal, The Ipsum Group

If you plan based on what you knew yesterday, you will not build the community of tomorrow.

  • Mind that land planning maximizes livability, desirability, and, let’s not forget, premium opportunities. So think wider lots, limiting dense back-to-back lot streetscapes, and smart landscaping to enhance your marketing trail.
  • Social is everything. It always has been and always will be. And it is not just places where your residents can get together, but also places that make the grandkids want to visit Gran Gran and Shabadoo. (What, that’s not what you call your grandparents?)
  • But who knew pickleball was so loud? Well, I guess everyone who played pickleball. Dumb question. But a good question is to ask yourself where you will place those pickleball courts.
  • We are living longer than ever. This will impact 55+ communities in many ways—when they buy (will it be later?), where they buy (are they still working?), and what features and amenities they need.
  • This longevity is partly why health and wellness has become so huge. Features like wellness suites, professional health services, and team-ups with healthcare providers are very much on the table.
  • Oh, and if you’re not sure, gate it.

A grab bag of demographics, consumers, and competition

  • It is more critical than ever to research and know your buyer. Then, do it again to ensure your finger is on that changing pulse.
  • It is still all about Boomers, but less so every year. Gen X is coming to an age-qualified community near you.
  • But not every AQ community can be pitched at the most affluent and equity-rich. There is a “meat of the market” price niche out there that often goes underserved.
  • Offering something that a buyer can’t get in their current situation is key. You have to give a potential buyer a great reason not to simply age in place by getting a low-rise shower entry and moving the master down.

It’s not just about the dos; it’s also about the don’ts.

  • It doesn’t always have to be about the Sun Belt. Deborah sees opportunity in colder climes where the competition is low to non-existent—but with the caveat that comes with a whole new set of things to think about.
  • It also doesn’t always have to be for-sale. Build-to-rent can definitely work, maybe with a neighborhood tucked into the midst of a large-scale AQ masterplan.
  • The same goes for biteable chunks of AQ—say, a few hundred homes, maybe even less—within an otherwise family-oriented master plan. This is the kind of best of both worlds that many older buyers seek to help them stay young.

Our New Home Trends Institute members have the opportunity to join councils


Deborah Blake is a member of the New Home Trends Institute’s Consumer Trends Council. The council explores lifestyle shifts and preferences impacting what consumers want in their home/community and how to best respond. Thought-provoking and digestible, the Consumer Trends Council offers a place to get real-time feedback on home buyer needs at a national level.

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About The Author

Dean Wehrli
Dean Wehrli
Dean helps housing sector clients figure out not just what might work and what might not, but why.

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