Millennials are changing how retirement will look in 2050

The reports are alarming, with longer predicted life spans and the prospect of weaker investment returns, and with only 6% of South Africans currently being able to retire comfortably, the surmise is that Millennials will need to save more money over a longer period than their Baby Boomer parents did. However, even though they are the most informed age group about pensions and retirement, with the most resources available, they still only start planning for retirement at an average age of 36, much later than previous generations and too late, say many. They also want to retire earlier, at the age of 59 and have less assets than Gen-Xers. 

But this is looking at retirement through the same lens that we have been looking at, for example, traditional financial institutions or school education for the past 80 years. We all know that change is not only inevitable but necessary. Perhaps the current 27 – 42 year olds with their nomadic lifestyles and work / life balance will normalise a new way of senior living for themselves and the future. 

We consulted with Corene Breedt-Remmutla and Mike Sieff, the Founders of Circle Senior Living, who have over 50 years of senior care experience between them, both in the NGO and private sectors. They are massive trend watchers in this field and have helped thousands of families through this transition. Here are some insights that they’ve gathered from how this landscape is changing and what to expect from the future of retirement communities:

Family first

A minimalist lifestyle will transition into a more mindful lifestyle and will go further than cutting back on material possessions, driving less expensive cars or living in different areas. Expect meaningful changes such as the culling of extended relatives and focusing on the immediate family unit. ‘Toxic’ people will be ignored and energy will be spent with those that bring us joy. 

Having seen the effects of divorce from their parents and grandparents, more long-term partnerships will be the basis for commitment and less marriages. This also means, as we’ve already seen, millennials will be having fewer children than before as strengthening existing relationships and life experiences become more important than ticking the box for a nuclear family. All of these add up to less dependents and more valuable disposable income, lining the nest for retirement.

A different way of investing

Unlike their parents, Millennials don’t have to settle for a policy-based retirement annuity (RA) if they are without a workplace retirement fund. Low-cost index funds, for example, only went mainstream around 15 years ago and are increasing in popularity. These funds deliver superior returns at a lower cost than most active managers – some costing less than 1% per annum, with each 1% per annum improvement over a working life improving an individual’s retirement income by some 30%.

Technology is non-negotiable 

Although they might want to retire in their 50’s, this doesn’t mean that they want to stop working completely. Surveys have shown that millennials are happy to continue working remotely and part-time into their late 60’s. This means that any retirement community will need to have office hubs and hotdesking as part of their communal areas. 

Smart TVs that organise your daily diary, iPads in rooms where your children can communicate, electric beds and personalised menus are already becoming the norm for over 70’s now. We can only imagine what will need to be included in homes in 30 years, but we do know that it will be technology that is there to add comfort and streamline services, combining multiple devices with less screen time. 

To buy or not to buy 

Over the past few years in South Africa options like the life rights model have become more popular and are set to continue to do so. Other alternatives such as rental options and sectional title models may also replace the traditional buying and later downsizing norms as companies are adapting to the market’s needs. Millennials are the first generation since Post War that are prepared to make do with little as long as they are comfortable in their home and have the medical care required when it’s needed. 

They are also prepared to spend all their money while they’re alive and to leave relatively little behind. A home will be seen as a temporary base from which you can continue to travel from. Expect senior developments and estates with sporty outdoor areas and sister estate exchange programmes, (a fortnight swop in Cape Town – Johannesburg, for example), to become the standard. 

70 is the new 50

As millennials will live longer and be in better health than ever before, they will have the opportunity to take charge of their lifestyle and living conditions in a way no previous generation has, demanding better rights and quality of emotional and medical support for themselves, the elderly. The overall goal will be to be as independent for as long as possible and that can only be a good thing for all of us. 

To find out more about the future of senior residences, please visit or set up a visit with Michael Sieff by emailing:


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