Why Independent Living Is Perfect for Gen X

Gen Xers watched MTV for the 24-hour music videos, loved John Hughes movies, and listened to Hootie & The Blowfish cassettes on their Walkmans.

Now, MTV is home to shows like Jersey Shore, Molly Ringwald is old enough to be an AARP member, and Hootie’s a country singer, with songs that stream to Gen Xers’ smartphones on Spotify.

The world Gen X grew up in has certainly changed. And so have they, especially financially: Though they suffered losses during the Great Recession, Gen Xers are the only generation to recover the wealth they lost, with the median net worth of Gen X households rising 115%.

Though Gen Xers may still have less overall household wealth than baby boomers, many people in Generation X are still in some of their prime earning years. Gen X as a whole has also increased its home equity and doubled its assets. In fact, Gen Xers are set to overtake the boomers as the nation’s wealthiest generation.

Now, this group is starting to turn its collective attention to retirement and their retirement lifestyle — and what it could look like for America’s 65.2 million Gen Xers, who the Pew Research Center says will outnumber baby boomers by 2028.

What are Gen X’s plans for retiring?

The people defined as Generation X — those born between 1965 and 1980 — look at retirement differently, and are looking for different things from their retirement lifestyles, than their baby boomer predecessors. Many Gen Xers say retirement means “freedom” but also “financial insecurity.”

A 2019 study conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies surveyed more than 5,000 workers who were not self-employed. The survey included roughly 1,500 baby boomers and Gen Xers, and about 2,100 millennials. Responses were intriguing:

  • 81% of Gen X respondents feel they’ll have a more difficult time achieving financial security than their baby boomer parents.
  • About 55% of Gen Xers plan to work past 65; 83% of those respondents said it would be because of financial reasons.
  • In regard to deciding where to live in retirement, 73% said affordability was the most important criterion.
  • 76% are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about their health in older age.
  • 28% have been or are currently caregivers during the course of their careers.

So what do Gen Xers hope for in retirement, considering they think retirement holds both freedom and financial concerns?

They want to be on the move. An AARP Travel Trends study, released in 2019, revealed a majority of Gen Xers planned to spend their 2020 visiting family, getting away from everyday life, and relaxing and rejuvenating. These three reasons were their top motivators for travel, mirroring the order of motivators for baby boomers.

Of course, we all know what happened in 2020. But assuming these Gen X responses reflect what Gen Xers plan to do in retirement, travel in general is still tops on the list.

That suggests that Gen Xers would want the freedom to lock and leave their homes for long stretches of time as they travel — a freedom that independent living at senior living communities offer.

They want balance and flexibility. Nine out of 10 Gen Xers surveyed by Ameriprise said they think their retirement wouldn’t fit the traditional mold. Though they plan to work longer than baby boomers, they expect their retirement work to be more flexible, fulfilling and rewarding. And they want their work to provide them with more purpose and opportunities for social interaction.

This could suggest Gen Xers want the environments around them to provide meaning and purpose, with multiple possibilities to make connections and friendships with others. Both can be found in independent living settings at a senior living community.

They want more living space. Research by the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C., found that while the average Gen Xer lives in a home with 1,880 square feet, the average home size they want in retirement is 2,315 square feet.

PulteGroup, one of the nation’s largest home builders, said for GenXers, space will be a priority, with the clear majority (71%) preferring a single-family home along with three or more bedrooms (67%). This may, in part, be because nearly 30% of those in the sandwich generation anticipate their next home will need to accommodate aging parents.

Though Gen Xers may not yet realize it, many senior living communities offer numerous independent living options, from single-family homes and duplexes to apartments. And selections in each of these options offer choices in a wide range of square footage.

What are Gen X’s senior living trends?

In general, Gen X would consider independent living at a senior living community. But they have certain expectations that can either make or break their choice in a particular independent living community:

  • This group expects mobile technology. They demand wireless connectivity at their fingertips with tablets, smartphones or laptops. Gen Xers spend more time per week on all devices — 21 hours on smartphones, 9 hours on PCs, and 4 hours on tablets — than millennials do.
  • This generation expects good communication and transparency. And senior living communities’ paper newsletters and community bulletin boards won’t cut it. Senior living communities should be ready to use technology to provide integrated, timely communications. Think online calendars and apps to help residents track community activities, appointments, messages, prescription refills and more, at all times.
  • They still want to be where the action is. Gen Xers would rather be in cities or suburbs in major metropolitan areas that offer strong Wi-Fi and plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance.
  • They’re already checking out communities — as caregivers. Gen Xers are already navigating the senior living industry as an option for their parents. They themselves may not be ready to move now, but they’re starting to become aware of the available choices.

It’s never too early to think about your retirement lifestyle.

If you identify as Gen X and you’re already thinking about your plans for retiring, good for you! The oldest Gen Xer would be 56, and is just six short years from being eligible to start drawing Social Security (albeit at a reduced amount).

Though you may have no intention of drawing Social Security quite yet, you may be wondering what your retirement lifestyle in general could hold for you. We’d be happy to help you discover the possibilities. Learn more about the senior living options out there, or use our Community Locator Tool to find a Life Care Services community near you.