Demographics and the economy play a chicken and egg game as they reshape both society and what people need in their homes.

Take, for instance, the fact that one in five 18-to-34 year-old adults lives in a household headed by parent(s). How does that fact change answers to the question, "how do you want to live in your home and community?" That phenomenon may well account in some large part for the notion of "multigenerational" floorplans becoming one of the hot new alternatives home buyers and home remodelers are choosing.

Demographics, after all, is a technical name for households and household patterns. When those patterns change, as they're doing now, faster and in more substantive ways than in prior eras, it makes developing, designing, and building a different game.

How about the fact that nearly the same percentage of people--nearly 19%--who are 65 or older works?

Here, Pew Research looks at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics with stunning implications for those who are trying to be strategic about the housing and community needs of 55+ populations of today and tomorrow. Pew senior writer Drew DeSilver writes:

In May, 18.8% of Americans ages 65 and older, or nearly 9 million people, reported being employed full- or part-time, continuing a steady increase that dates to at least 2000 (which is as far back as we took our analysis). In May of that year, just 12.8% of 65-and-older Americans, or about 4 million people, said they were working.

At the current rate of change, it wouldn't be far-fetched to project 20 million people age 65 and older working, a great majority of them working full-time.

What does this suggest about answers to the question, "how do you want to live in your home?" specifically as it relates to developing, designing, and building homes and communities for the 55+ segment? Community and product development, not to mention land acquisition and planning strategy, become a whole new ball-game if a scalable number of 65+ households contain a full-time working member.

Most of the focus for shift and fresh thinking in the 55+ residential real estate world has been on proximity to children, grandchildren, and other social connections. A miscalculation might well be strategies that equate 55+ to the mass-scale notion of retirement.

Set aside retirement financial planning, the potential sunsetting, someday, of Social Security benefits, longevity trends, etc., for a moment. One or two new data points that persuasively suggest that working full-time may mean a longer, healthier, mentally more-sound life could swing the one-in-five share closer to 50% in short order.

Either way, 55+ community and neighborhood planning and development is no less fraught with shifting, hard-to-predict trends and variables than those facing developers of entry-level, first-time buyer homes and neighborhoods. The 55+ new home buyer, we believe, is just like every other first-time new home buyer--except, with more of a resume, a bit of a nest egg, and, likely, plans to stay in place for a decade or two.