The Most Valuable Generation is leaving the workplace and re-inventing the home.
As America’s aging Baby Boomers begin to exit the workplace, they will soon find themselves back in a familiar place: their “first place.” In his excellent book The Great Good Place, sociologist Ray Oldenburg posited that the two places that have the greatest influence on our social context are home and the work place. Oldenburg aptly named them the first and second places, and it makes a lot of sense: the home is the anchor of our lives, and work is the place and activity that sustains our lifestyle.
Got it… all good, right up until the point when the second place — the one that defines who most people are by what they do — goes away as they reach the end of their traditional careers.
Welcome home to the new world. The Boomers are now retiring at the alarming rate of 10,000 a day for the next 17 years. They are leaving their second places and coming home, and the true impact of this reverse commute is only now beginning to materialize. The Boomers will need to fill the void once filled at the workplace in order to re-establish balance in their lives, and this phenomenon will reshape tens of millions of daily lifestyles.
I believe that this re-balancing will play out in two fundamental ways: the Boomers will either spend more time in their first place and/or they will look to create a new second place. I call these two emerging Boomer lifestyle trends “Home-centricity” and “Encore-preneurship” respectively.
As a new home-centric lifestyle takes hold, new and rediscovered patterns of living will have a huge impact on the consideration, choice and usage of an endless array of new products and services. Google’s purchase of home systems innovator Nest Corporation for a reported $3.3 billion is a leading indicator of what’s to come.
Once a space that nurtured a growing family (think “we”), the Boomer home is now nurturing the pursuit of passion and pleasure for the “Me-generation,” a very self-aware cohort that’s acting like it’s ageless. According to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a full one-third of American households are already home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older, and they’re not planning on leaving any time soon.
In contrast to previous generations, the Boomers expect to grow old gracefully without leaving the comforts of their home. NMI data reveals that 78 percent of adults between the ages of 50-64 have indicated a preference to “age in place.” Home sweet home, indeed. Home will the place where the next chapter of their lives will play out, and given their high disposable income — 26 percent greater than Gen X — they are going to do it in style.
This describes the phenomenon of entrepreneurial Boomers creating new jobs for themselves and others during the encore phase of their careers. Whether out of necessity or passion, Boomers are still intent on working. A 2013 study conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave indicated that 70% of pre-retirees had already planned to work after “retirement.” Obviously this is a generation that has no intention of stopping.
While it’s true that many Boomer Encore-preneurs are working to offset the consequences of poor financial planning and The Great Recession, they’re also doing it to restore the personal equilibrium that was disrupted when the second place went away. Unless you’re a Boomer, you can’t possibly understand the impossibility of replacing a life at work with recreational pursuits; there simply aren’t enough golf courses or gardens to keep this massive generation feeling as vital and valuable as a material endeavor can. Get ready for one of the most fertile periods of entrepreneurship our nation has ever seen as Boomers leverage a lifetime of wisdom to launch new dreams.
Where one thing ends, another begins. The daily ritual of the second place is coming to an end for many Boomers, but we’re seeing this change result in endless and unimaginable new beginnings. If your life or business intersects with Boomers, think first things first. If you want to get inside their hearts and minds, get inside their homes — their first place, the place where their social essence is nurtured. This is where they’ll be — literally and figuratively — as they pause, reflect and re-start their lives. Destination? The future of living, starting in first gear and then full speed ahead!