The Global Wellness Institute, an international research and educational nonprofit just back from its annual Global Wellness Summit, released the latest update to its Future of Wellness 2022 Trends Report. Half of their top 10 trends will have a strong impact on the development and improvement of our living spaces – at every price point.
“Consumers are tired of wellness as elitist hyper-consumerism,” concludes the organization’s research VP Beth McGroarty. “They want more accessible, affordable wellness. It’s no longer about pampering and an escape from ‘the real world.’ Wellness practices are now being recast as the path to becoming resilient and ready for an increasingly volatile future,” she adds.
Covid, natural disasters, supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine are all driving this re-thinking, the researcher notes. And in a long overdue backlash to ‘well-washing’ and what she calls ‘magical thinking,’ McGroarty reports that consumers want to see more evidence and transparency in wellness-related approaches. And more inclusiveness: “They also insist that wellness finally address[es] underserved populations.”
Here are GWI’s 2022 trends that will likely have the strongest links to residential wellness design and real estate.
1. Dirt-y Wellness
GWI sees a growing focus on the health of the world’s soil. This is a topic that has already intersected healthy homes and communities with addressing polluted sites and mitigating exposure to the country’s greatest lung cancer contributor after smoking: radon.
What’s new is research that points to the crucial links between healthy soil and healthy selves – and our current deprivation. The study sees a “profound soil crisis,” arising from industrial agricultural practices and a “soil health crisis” unleashing nutrition, environmental and human health crisis at our doorsteps.
In wellness real estate, this is contributing to the popularity of regenerative-farming-focused agrihoods. “People will increasingly seek these communities that deliver a uniquely purposeful, self-reliant, planet-changing life of restoring the soil, farming, healthy food and nature,” the report predicts.
It has also contributed to a revival of gardening, both indoor and outdoor. GWI also sees a trend toward “creating indoor spaces designed to be teeming with healthy organic and soil microbes,” (though many of us older Americans raised on generations of sanitizing your home advertising might be slower to adapt such spaces).
2. Senior Living Disrupted
It’s no secret that our population is aging. So it’s not surprising that senior living trends will also be reimagined. Covid was definitely a contributor (and disruptor), but long before the pandemic, aging experts in technology, architecture, product design and other disciplines were looking for ways to make getting old in America a healthier, happier, less hellaciously ugly reality than our parents and grandparents experienced. That includes where we live.
Many Boomers grew up in multi-generational households with parents and grandparents. The study attributes the shift away from that common reality with the rise of “active adult” communities that gave older adults a suburban lifestyle, neighborhood and home of their own. The trend is shifting back toward more multi-generational living – in the same neighborhood or on the same lot, if not the same home.
“That is especially true for today’s retirees and soon-to-be retirees who want to age well without age segregation,” the study notes. Intergenerational communities focused on real life connections and care between neighbors of all ages will be built into the next development trend, the authors predict, seeing them as a “timely solution for a world where the population is aging, where there is short supply of both affordable housing and caregivers and where there is a loneliness epidemic.”
3. Urban Bathhouses & Wellness Playgrounds
Water-based wellness is poised to make a comeback, GWI predicts. “Whether it’s urban bathhouses featuring hydrothermal experiences (like saunas, steam rooms and pools) or open-space public parks where nature meets art and wellness, there’s a great reckoning happening in cities around the globe: the pursuit of wellness is becoming much more accessible (i.e., at your doorstep)—and, crucially, much more affordable and inclusive.” Taking the waters, as our grandparents might have said and done, is definitely a trend for the 21st century too, GWI declares.
How is this a residential wellness trend, rather than just a travel or tourism trend? First, these new public experiences will drive a desire to live close by, impacting where new communities arise and how they’re priced. Second, they’ll likely expand the types of amenities developers add to their private communities, based on which features have the greatest appeal.
Last but definitely not least, some homeowners seeking more privacy and convenience will opt to add these amenities to their own properties. Steam showers, flotation tubs and saunas have already become increasingly popular with homeowners. One manufacturer cited a 73% increase in online searches for “home sauna” from April 2020 to 2021.
4. Next-Gen Naturalism: The Return of Self-Reliance
An alternate term is new survivalism, the report says. “After years of unlearning ancient skills—from how to start a fire to how to grow our own food—we’re finally getting our hands dirty again and taking pride in DIY projects,” the authors observe. They call this trend “Next-Gen Naturalism.”
It’s showing up at home in grow-your-own-food capabilities, GWI reports, including with at-home produce gardening. There are some start-ups in this area and a few giants, like LG. At the 2022 International Builder’s Show and CES, the global manufacturer’s appliance division showed off an indoor gardening appliance called Tiiun. In addition to these larger units are countertop models that have increased in popularity since Covid emptied supermarket shelves and produce price hikes since then.
5. Wellness Welcomes the Metaverse
Thirty years ago, we were hearing about and playing with a new “Internet” thing. A decade and a half later, our phones started going online, becoming more than just ways to call or message each other. The next communications revolution is the metaverse, and its potential for wellness and wellness real estate is just starting.
How it will evolve is unknown at this point. The development of the eyewear needed to fully experience it, currently expensive and less than ideal, is still in progress. And the digital currency tied into the metaverse is undergoing a contraction. But the metaverse itself will almost certainly extend into our homes and health. There are already architects designing virtual living spaces and designers creating furniture that can be 3D printed for offline use.
This is how GWI sees the wellness real estate sector evolving: “1) Membership in communities that are completely digital, as found in The Sandbox, Decentraland and Somnium Space. 2) Virtual tours and experiences in real-world wellness real estate communities will also have a strong influence on this wellness sector.”
There are also smarter home technologies that will enhance a user’s experience. These will include more sophisticated telemedicine capabilities, more stimulating fitness equipment and smarter bathroom fixtures that can provide health diagnoses.
I’ll be sharing kitchen and bathroom design and remodeling trends in an hour-long Clubhouse conversation tomorrow afternoon (November 16, 2022) at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific. You can join this WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS discussion here. If you’re unable to attend, you can catch the recording via Clubhouse Replays here or on my Gold Notes design blog here the following Wednesday.