Last week in the NY Times, Paul Krugman wrote a column called “Stranded in Suburbia” and it got me thinking about what “home” is going to look like for a lot of us aging Baby Boomers over the next few decades.  At AIM, the most important thing we do is monitor trends for the home and predict trends in an effort to help our clients develop the best and most successful products for the home. 


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Krugman, he is, in addition to a columnist, a professor of economics at Princeton and is known for his progressive (yet globalist) politics.  (Some of my friends say he is way too liberal, but today’s column was relevant to the home products business, regardless of your political point of view.)  The gist of the op-ed was that while we’re “supposed to see the future in China or India,” “old Europe” has a lot to teach America about how to exist in a world of increasingly high fuel prices.  Krugman goes on to describe the city-centered model found in Western Europe where people own smaller and fewer cars.  Europeans also do not need to use cars as often because they have a sophisticated system of public transportation and they live much closer to urban centers.  In the US, on the other hand, we live in far flung suburbs and have grown dependent on our SUVs and big cars.  Krugman says it won’t be easy to make any kind of societal shift to the European system because pleasant urban neighborhoods are not as common here as in Europe and there is a “longstanding American association of higher-density living with poverty and personal danger.”  In America, there is also an issue of race and class.  We tend to think of cities as dwelling places for the rich and the poor; the middle classes live in the suburbs.  And infrastructure is another large problem – even our best served metro-centers are far behind Europe in terms of public transportation.


So all this got me thinking about the home of the future and where I myself might like to live in a few years when I am an empty nester.   We have been increasingly hearing people in our research at AIM talk about moving back into urban areas.  And these people are not just young twenty-somethings.  They are growing families and they are “older folks” like me who cite the lack of culture and inconvenience of the suburbs.  They are weary of cutting the grass, painting the house, and getting in the car to go everywhere.  (After years of trying to squeeze it in between my kids’ sporting events, I am even tired of my garden.)  In our area, we keep seeing ads in the paper for high rise condominiums on the New Jersey side of the Hudson and for townhouses in Center City Philadelphia.  Other trend watchers such as Age Wave and builders like Toll Brothers are predicting an “insodus” – the opposite of exodus – back to the cities.  And not just on the two coasts, but also in places like Kansas City and Minneapolis and Houston.  Across the country, developments and high rises are cropping up to accommodate this movement, offering hotel-like amenities such as room service, dry cleaning delivery and in-house fitness centers.  So if this is a viable movement, we would like to learn more about it from consumers on our blog…Is this appealing now or later in life?  What amenities would draw you to the city?  What would you leave behind?  What would you want to buy?  We’ll be exploring this more in our research, but we’d like to hear what YOU think…