Research shows retirees feel about 20 per cent younger than their actual age. It’s food for thought for home design when developers have downsizers in mind.

You may have seen the Ron Howard movie Cocoon starring Don Ameche, in which aliens share their life force to bring youth and vigour to a group of residents at a retirement home. It may seem like a tenuous connection to downsizing but life has a habit of imitating art, and research from the National Seniors Association[1] confirms that as we grow older, we often feel younger.

The vast majority (75%) of survey respondents, typically aged in their 60s, said they felt younger than their chronological age. How much younger? Let’s just say that among seniors, 75 is the new 65.

It’s not the first such study. The Australian Bureau of Statistics crunched some numbers, finding that based on current life expectancies, 85 is the new 65.

Of course, age is a highly relative concept. Separate research found empty-nesters aged 50-79 didn’t feel old because in their eyes “old” age starts at 81. On the flipside, among those aged 30-49, someone is old when they reach 70-plus[2].


What it means for downsizer developers

This all has big implications for developers hoping to attract a downsizer market.

First up, those designing and marketing downsizer properties need to be mindful of their own perceptions of “old”. The empty nesters you are pitching at probably don’t see themselves in the same light that you do.

Secondly, and here we refer back again to the National Seniors survey, one of the key factors that determines how old people feel is their health. Good health equals feeling younger. It’s that simple.

This being the case, it’s worth thinking about how property design can be pitched at a healthy lifestyle – and promote feeling younger.

That doesn’t have to mean including a tight spiral staircase in a two-storey dwelling. But rather allowing for health features such as gyms, pools, spas, tennis courts, community gardens and even walking tracks. If you’re competing against the retirement village market, be aware that around 70% of villages have each of a gym, pool and garden[3].


Achieving independent living by downsizing

Sure, aged care and traditional retirement villages have a place, but independent living can also be achieved and maintained through various other downsizing options to suit all tastes and lifestyles. And there are many different styles and types of new downsizer developments and downsizing-friendly properties which can offer the benefit of a more youthful environment.

You may only be as old as you feel – but for empty nesters it’s a plus to be surrounded by companions of a similar age, at a similar stage in life, who are also ready to embrace the new found freedom offered as work and family responsibilities finally come to an end.

While the average age of residents in traditional old style retirement villages might sit at 80[4], there is now a whole new generation of younger downsizers who are eager to embrace independent living on their own terms – and are already actively searching for the right property, in the right location, at the right pricepoint.

And many empty nesters are no longer waiting to retire before they downsize their home, according to our new survey results…so stay tuned for more information about this rapidly growing specialist market!







Greg Oddy is Director of Sales and Marketing for