Recently we’ve featured results of AARP’s Age-Friendly Community Survey, diving into a wide variety of boomer preferences ranging from homeownership rates, community ratings, the likelihood or reasons for moving during retirement, most-wanted remodeling modifications, to most-needed outdoor space features. As it turns out, a majority of boomers surveyed want a home that helps them live independently as they age, and more than half of boomers are willing to move in order to achieve that goal.

Successful builders understand their obligation to not only make sense of what customers want, but also understand how to get consumers what they want. In this case, what exactly should builders do to build the independently-aging friendly homes and communities that boomers want?

In a segment of the survey, boomers across 14 markets were asked to rank seven housing features by how important those features are to them, and how much those features are present at their current dwellings. The difference between the importance and existence of each housing feature indicates a "need gap" (average % of respondents rating a feature "important," minus the average % of respondents living in a community that already incorporates that feature), that builders should take action to provide.

Home repair services for low-income and older adults (68%), well-maintained and safe low-income housing (55%), and accessible homes equipped with a no-step entrance/wider doorways (54%) are the top three features boomers want, but are not available to them. Close behind is the need for affordable home prices for varying income levels (52%), seasonal services such as lawn work (50.79%), and trustworthy and affordable home repair contractors (46%). In the bottom of the ranking is well-maintained homes and properties (22%), a feature that most boomers are content with currently. In general, home repair and and low income housing are the two most important things to boomers, whose health and wealth gets weighed down by aging and retirement and a newly restricted income.

Geography plays a crucial role in how boomers feel and what they want. For instance, in Bangor, Maine, where there’s a high presence and low need of housing features in general, the need gap for well-maintained and safe low-income housing only stands at 3%, whereas in Phoenix, Ariz., and Fort Worth, Texas, the need gap reaches as high as 65%.

Below is an interactive chart showcasing boomers’ rating of each housing feature. The Y axis represents the importance of each feature, and the X axis represents the presence of each feature in survey respondents' current home and community, on a 100-point scale. Hover over the dots to explore the need gap for each of the top three housing features across the markets.

In addition, respondents in each market also disclosed one community feature with the largest need gap in eight different domains, including transportation, health and wellness, outdoor spaces, housing, job opportunities, social participation, community info, and volunteer and civic engagement. We’ve listed the most cited features in each domain below: