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Real-life ‘Golden Girls’? Why more seniors are living with roommates

Photo: Pixabay / MGN
Photo: Pixabay / MGN(WCTV)
Published: Jul. 5, 2019 at 5:35 AM CDT
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Ah, baby boomers and millennials — could they be more different? The former are in or nearing retirement, while the other group is ambitiously rising in the workforce. Many millennials are waiting to marry and have kids, while their dear old boomer parents, quite possibly divorced by now, were comparatively eager to settle down in their twenties.

Is there any common ground between these two demographics who, rivaling in size, are so often pitted against one another? Research shows that in fact, yes, in many ways millennials and boomers are similar, not only in values but in other matters including finance, living situations, and even online presence.

It's become a cliché: the sentimental boomer mom or dad annoying or embarrassing their millennial kid with their clumsy Facebook attempts. Well, those days are just about over as boomers become more adept at using social media.

According to Pew Research Center, social media usage by older adults is increasing: as of November 2016, 64 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 64 are active on at least one social media site — up 14 percent from July 2015.

Like millennials, boomers are keen on sharing their experiences on social media — and to engage with user-generated and brand-curated content.

According to Olapic's Consumer Trust Study Report, boomers and millennials trust user-generated content over content created by brands, to varying degrees. Thirty-six percent of boomers trust user-generated content, while 24 percent trust content created by brands; 47 percent of millennials trust user-generated content, with 25 percent trusting content created by brands.

Additionally, Olapic's study found that boomers and millennials both prefer photos over other types of social content; and that 90 percent of boomers prefer Facebook to other social networking sites, while 25 percent of millennials prefer Instagram.

"My sense is that as smartphone penetration grows among boomers, they're getting more into Facebook, mainly because it's the most well-established [of the social media sites]," said Mark Potts, head of insights at Mindshare North America. "I think they'll end up on Instagram, too. Like millennials, boomers show a desire for experiences, especially in the travel category. Both boomers and millennials are reactive in terms of wanting to go out and do something and get off the beaten path."

As brands continue to strengthen their digital presence with social media ad campaigns, they may want to pay more attention to the presence of boomers.

"Our hypothesis is that brands are over-focused on millennials," said Potts. "Take the spirits category, for instance: the majority of off-premise buyers are older consumers and yet the liquor brands tend to be focused on younger adult buyers. They should be [tailoring] their messaging to be more inclusive of older consumer groups."

ast year, home ownership rates in the U.S fell to a historic low, and while millennials — who are less likely to buy than previous generations — are partly to blame, the surging interest among boomers to rent rather than own mustn't be discounted.

A 2015 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University found that families or married couples ages 45–64 accounted for roughly twice the share of renter growth as households under the age of 35.

Like millennials, boomers are affected by increasing rents in "hot housing markets, such as San Francisco and L.A," said Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom. "With renters paying increasingly higher rents than ever before, both millennials and boomers are having to adjust their definition of affordability. For example, boomers who grew up with 'the 30 percent rule,' find the new standards of rental prices to be especially unaffordable."

To manage high rent, baby boomers are increasingly open to living with roommates.

"Numerous boomers are using SpareRoom to find roommates," said Hutchinson, noting spikes in major housing markets such as Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.