A study of the types of homes seniors inhabit, conducted by Metlife’s Mature Market Institute, reveals some expected trends, beginning with the increase in this segment of the population. Census figures indicate that the number of citizens 55 or older has been steadily increasing, accounting for 21 percent of the population in 2000 and growing to 23 percent in 2007. Forecasters expect seniors to reach 25 percent of the population by 2010. As a consequence, the demand for housing designed for older Americans has been growing and is expected to continue to grow.

But most 55 and older households are not found to be living in age-qualified communities, although the number is on the rise. Only 3 percent of seniors lived in age-qualified communities in 2007, although residents of this type of community registered the highest satisfaction rates. The main reasons seniors decided to move to 55 and older, owner-occupied housing were family and personal reasons, financial and employment reasons or the desire to have a higher quality home.

The number of seniors who moved to 55 and older, owner-occupied housing rose from 6 percent in 2001 to 13 percent in 2007. Active adult communities attract younger buyers (60 and younger), while female-headed households dominate the multi-family and age-qualified rental market. The share of homebuyers in age-qualified communities who have some college education rose from 50 percent in 2001 to 73 percent in 2007. The percentage of 55 and older, owner-occupied housing residents who are minorities has trended upward and is expected to continue.

Homeownership rates are very high among households headed by someone age 55 and older. More than two-thirds of 55 and older households own single-family detached homes. A full seventy-one percent of 55 and older households live in communities that are neither age-qualified nor occupied mostly by people 55 and older.

Another interesting feature of the 55 and older housing market is that in the age-qualified rental market, the majority of customers (more than 60 percent) were over 75, while in the age-qualified, active adult housing market, the age distribution is concentrated in the younger age brackets (55 to 59, 60 to 64 and 65 to 69). Thus, the study found that residents in the age-qualified rental market tended to be older than those in the other 55 and older housing markets.

In 2007, well over half of the age-restricted rental market residents did not have a college education, compared with 70 percent of the age-qualified owner-occupied market residents who had some college education. This finding is consistent with the fact that households in age-restricted rental markets generally have lower incomes and the supposition that age-qualified rental communities may be government-subsidized.