The formerly vibrant new-home buyer market of empty-nesters has decided instead to feather their current nests. According to a survey released today by AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons), nearly one-third of middle-aged and older Americans say they are making changes to their current homes so that they can live in those homes for longer rather than buy a new house or downsize to an apartment.

"Contrary to general thought, AARP's survey indicates that Americans who are 45-plus are not looking to downsize or leave their current homes as they prepare for or enter retirement," said Elinor Ginzler, AARP senior vice president for livable communities. "They are literally fixing to stay, improving their homes in order to stay there longer and largely overlooking the drop in home values. Call it cocooning or nesting, boomers and their parents are digging in and staying put.”

While psychology is certainly a factor in such decisions (90 percent of Americans aged 60 years and older want to stay in their own homes as long as they can, according to AARP), so is the wobbly economy, which is forcing many to curtail spending on extras. Nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed said they had postponed travel plans because of the slowing economy; more than 60 percent said they were eating out less and devoting fewer dollars to entertainment.

Unlike many other Americans, though, this group does not appear to be worried about losing their homes. But they are fretting about the effects of the housing slump and foreclosure crisis on their neighborhoods (64 percent) and the U.S. economy (89 percent). A top concern: the risk of crime in areas with high numbers of foreclosed homes, which was on the minds of 69 percent of respondents.

The research for this survey was conducted in April, when the AARP Economic Survey interviewed a random sample of 1,002 Americans aged 45 and older. The margin of error is plus/minus 3.1 percent.

For more detail on "The Economic Slowdow's Impact on Middle-Aged and Other Americans," visit

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, for BUILDER magazine.