Inspiration from the Golden Girls

Stephen Chung

Managing Director

Zeppelin Real Estate Analysis Limited

August 2004 

When your humble author was living in North America, he watched a then popular TV comedy series entitled :The Golden Girls; which revolved around several elderly ladies who shared living quarters together and hilarious moments evolved from their daily routines and interactions. Naturally, it is not the intent here to discuss TV comedies or script-writing, just that the fact Hong Kong has more women than men leads to the contemplation of similar possibilities for real estate, residential in particular, in terms of demand-user profiling AND accommodation arrangement now or in future. A few trends which may contribute toward the realization of say a :Golden Girls; arrangement:

a)      More women are now single = according to published news and reports, there are now some several tens of thousands of women, mostly in the marriage / child-bearing age, who are single or have never married. While the bulk of them may be healthy and having an active lifestyle at the moment, there will come a time when some, if not all, will have somewhat deteriorated physiques, and at which point, some form of care and attention will be required. If such problems are not serious, sharing accommodation with .compatible・ single women, be such long-time friends, work colleagues etc, is one way to .keep company・ and help watching out for one another.

b)      Women living longer than men = women now live to around 82 years old while men live up to an average of around 77. Given the common situation that husbands are usually older than their spouse (wife), this means most married women on average are likely to outlast their husband by more than 5 years (82-77) i.e. it is very likely that widows will live another 6, 8, or even 10 years on average after their husband passes away. In short, there will be no lack of single elderly women in addition to those who have been single all their lifetime as widows join the rank.  

c)      Women becoming as strong (some say even stronger than) as the men = not in terms of physique* but in terms of intellect, education, professional qualification, career, and so on. This, according to some social service reports, may also be the reason why there are far more single women today than observed in previous generations = a well-educated, professional woman with her own career and increased income capability (thus reducing the financial reliance on men to maintain a certain living standard and / or dependence on men for her own subsidence) will have more options in life i.e. (traditional) marriage is not the only way out financially nor even emotionally-sentimentally. The reports also mentioned not only are such women being more demanding in potential spouse selection, some men may actually avoid them out of lack of confidence etc. Added this to the recent reports that school-girls, whether in primary, secondary, or even university-level, score generally higher than school-boys, and that girls / women are now occupying a much higher percentage in enrollment, and using a simple projection, it is not difficult to envision the trend of not having sufficient number of say .matching・ single men for single women to continue for sometime in the future.

d)      Changes in social attitude toward marriage = not too long ago, say in the early part of 20th Century, it was not uncommon for wives to have to ask their husband, or the husband・s parents, for :permission; to go back to their :maiden; homes to visit their own parents, and usually only for a short period. This may sound barbaric and unreasonable to women (and men) today but was true of those days, and women (and men) today do not always entertain the idea of having to live with parents-in-law, having achieved financial independence and being in many instances even the dominant bread-winner. While certain social-family pressure still exists for women to get married, the stigma (of women not being able to marry) is not as severe as it once was.

In view of the above, perhaps it may be worthwhile for real estate developers to consider the likely demand from such social trends and gear their residential development and design toward attracting in part these golden girls (to be).

*Author・s note = while men are generally on average still physically taller and stronger (in terms of lifting heavy stuff etc), this does not imply men are generally healthier. In fact, the reverse may be true as reflected in life insurance premiums worldwide = for the same health conditions and age, men pay some 30 to 60% more on average. Guys, we tend to kaput (German, means broken) more.  

Notes: The article and/or content contained herein are for general reference only and are not meant to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. The author(s) and Zeppelin, including its staff, associates, consultants, executives and the like do not accept any responsibility or liability for losses, damages, claims and the like arising out of the use or reference to the content contained herein.  

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