Still Booming
Whether Remodeling Homes, Buying New Property or Traveling Across the Globe, SCV Baby Boomers are Doing it their Way
July, 2005 - Issue #9
Interior designer Charmy Carr discusses a remodel with carpenter Howard Spellman
Interior designer Charmy Carr discusses a remodel with carpenter Howard Spellman
You've just dropped your youngest child off at college. The older children are on their own, doing just fine, thank you. Your home, which holds all the memories of raising a family, seems just a little too quiet and way too big. As you stand in the hallway looking at empty beds and old childhood trophies, you wonder... Is this the empty nest syndrome you've been hearing about or is it the whooshing sound of a big page turning in your life?

After years of raising children and working at their careers, the baby boomer generation (those born in 1946 through 1964 and more than 75 million strong) are now preparing for a life of leisure. The images of rocking chairs and retirement homes are far from their minds, however. Thanks to sound investments or equity from their homes, rooms are being remodeled, trips are being planned and second homes are being purchased by boomers who have decided that a life of leisure isn't exactly what they want.

Interior designer Charmian Carr has a front row seat to baby boomer remodels. She said her clients have very specific ideas in mind when it comes to converting their family home and it doesn't include downsizing.

Boomers enjoy having the kids come home to visit, Carr said, and they want to create an inviting environment that includes tennis courts, swimming pools and outdoor living areas. Living rooms, which were once considered off-limits, are truly "living" rooms again, Carr said, where families can come together to play games or watch movies on big screen media-room-type equipment. "A lot of living goes on in these rooms," she said.

Childhood trophies and bunk beds are stashed as empty bedrooms are converted into "mini-suites" in preparation for visits from grown children with their spouse and own kids in tow.

"I have a client right now who sold his 7,000 square foot home, purchased a 4,000 square foot home, and is now building a 9,000 square foot home," Carr said. "He and his wife raised two children and they are now remodeling this home to include space for the five grandchildren."

Myron Kalebjian checks on floor installation
Myron Kalebjian checks on floor installation
Myron and Judy Kalebjian are in the process of adding additional square footage to the kitchen of their Newhall home. The Kalebjians' last child left the nest 10 years ago, but both Myron and Judy are enjoying the grandchildren and a passion for animals which include exotic birds, koi and an assortment of rescued kittens.

Judy said family gatherings always seem to center around the kitchen. "We host family events like Thanksgiving when everyone comes to town. It seems everybody always wants to be in the kitchen when I'm trying to put together a turkey dinner. This way I have room to move around and still talk with my family," she said.

Eventually the Kalebjians plan on adding a new deck and sunroom. The grandchildren have plenty of room to play in the backyard, but Myron and Judy are also thinking of remodeling their living room, giving the kids more of a play area for video games and sleepovers.

The lure of the ocean was a factor when Rob and Mary Gapper sold their family home. After raising two boys and getting them through college, Rob and Mary packed up and moved to the beach. An avid sailor, Rob said the decision to sell their house in suburban Santa Clarita was an opportunity that knocked at the door.

"Someone made me an offer that was just too good to pass up," Rob said.

The pair, both public school educators, commute from Oxnard to Santa Clarita, but will stay in Santa Clarita during the week in a town home which allows them to attend night meetings.

"We jet out of here on Friday and enjoy the cooler weather in Oxnard," Rob said. "We love it and I haven't regretted this decision at all."

"It's sort of like a vacation every weekend," he said. His next purchase - a boat!

While boomers enjoy family time, they are definitely on the move. European vacations and exotic cruises are just two of the vacations enjoyed by empty nesters.

Travel Agent Debra Hurst, of Camarillo Travel, said there has been enormous changes in the travel industry since she began providing services 26 years ago.

"People generally took one vacation a year and planned those trips almost one year in advance," Hurst said. "Now, especially with the boomer generation, they want to go every month or every couple of months. They just want to be doing something all the time."

A generation ago, Hurst said couples would book cruises to Alaska or the Bahamas to relax and take in the scenery. Boomers, it seems, like a little more action and cruise lines have had to redesign their vacation packages to accommodate a more active clientele.

"Cruising is popular again," Hurst said. "It's a lot cheaper than it use to be and people like things that are all inclusive where they can unpack a suitcase and dine just about whenever they want. Cruise ships now stay in one place a little longer, giving passengers a chance to explore each location."

"Boomers today make up the biggest cruise market," she added.

European travel is also up despite the current terrorist's threats. Hurst said boomers are looking for more independent travel and searching for that outdoor experience that include walking tours and mountain bike trails.

"We had enormous cancellations after Sept. 11," Hurst said. "But I think people are kind of over that. Parents are saying 'Now it's our time.' I hear that a lot. They want to go while they are still healthy. They seem to have disposable time and income."

Dale and Marsha McLean recently traveled back to the place they met more than 30 years ago - Paris, France. Marsha was employed with the State Department U.S. Information Agency and Dale was an MP in the Army. The two met at a dance and soon became engaged. "Dale gave me a ring in a bouquet of yellow roses," Marsha said.

After moving back to the states and getting married, the McLeans always dreamed of going back to Paris, but raising children, running a business and life in general got in the way, Marsha said.

"We lead extremely busy lives," said Marsha, a councilwoman for the City of Santa Clarita. "We just decided that if we didn't do it now, we were never going to."

Dale and Marsha McLean in Paris - early
Dale and Marsha McLean in Paris - early '70s
The McLeans spent nine days in Paris and even had a chance to visit a favorite restaurant they used to frequent. Marsha said she enjoyed living in Paris in her twenties and loved visiting the city once again. Although she found the city had changed a lot since her single, working days ("it's more commercialized"), she did not find one Parisian who was unfriendly.

"We walked around a lot. Our feet hurt," she said. "I would advise anyone not to wait (to visit Europe) and take comfortable shoes."

The next trip for the McLeans - Hawaii.

If a European vacation is not for you, Hurst has a big travel tip - Costa Rica. "It's a great value. A wealth of experience in one small destination. Rain Forest, volcanoes, great beaches, great food and friendly to Americans," she said. "For those long board surfers, it's an ideal spot." Best time to go - June.

All this travel and remodeling may leave the children of the baby boomer generation a little dazed. Boomerangs (so named because they seem to always come home), watch in amazement as their parents take on construction projects and go white-water rafting.

Allison Milton, the youngest of three children, wasn't surprised when shortly after she graduated from college, her parents sold their Valencia home and moved to a rural community in the mid-west. Her parents had been planning that move for years, she said. Twenty-three year old Allison chose to stay in California.

"I talk to my mom everyday," Allison said. "She says she misses me, but she only talks to me for about five minutes and then she says she's got to go."

Allison said she thinks her parents will keep a second home in Washington D.C. where her father still works, but she knows he misses California and may purchase another place on the West Coast.

She is surprised how much her parents travel. "When you are old you are suppose to stay in one spot and not move, but (my parents) don't," Allison said.

"I just hope I'm just as active as they are when my kids leave home," she added.
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