They represent the largest generation in the U.S., and as they prepare to retire from the workplace, they are expected to have a significant impact on communities and real estate markets across the country. Last year, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65, and over the next 20 years, thousands more will reach the same milestone. As these 36 million boomers — born between 1945 and 1955 — contemplate life after work and kids, economists are trying to predict where they will spend their golden years.
Some have surmised that boomers will leave their suburban roots to become city dwellers, and many developers have banked on this, investing in and constructing high-end housing for urban empty nesters. But population trend research conducted by demographer Wendell Cox and compiled by Joel Kotkin suggests just the opposite.
Over the past decade, urban areas like Manhattan, Chicago and San Francisco have shown double-digit percentage losses of boomers. Why? It could be due to the economy, which caused many boomers to postpone retirement, not only to recover from their own financial losses, but also to support their unemployed or underemployed children — many of whom have moved back in with their parents until they can find decent jobs. Or it could stem from the fact that boomers are working later than ever, with 60 percent of employees over age 60 still in the workplace.
Whatever the reason, an analysis of those 55 to 65 in 2000 and 65 to 75 in 2010 showed an overall 12 percent drop in city dwellers. Retiring boomers are less likely to move to big cities and more likely to flock to less congested, more affordable regions. According to Cox’s and Kotkin’s research, the top 10 towns for boomers include:
1. Las Vegas, Nev.
2. Phoenix, Ariz.
3. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
4. Orlando, Fla.
5. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.
6. Raleigh, N.C.
7. Austin, Texas
8. San Antonio, Texas
9. Jacksonville, Fla.
10. Charlotte, N.C.-S.C.
While some boomers are cashing out of expensive housing in big metros in search of less costly Sun Belt residences, many others are staying put in the suburbs and neighborhoods where they have always lived. The most recent census data reveals that the older people get, the less likely they are to move — and relocation recently hit its lowest level since the early 1960s. Those that do relocate tend to move to be closer to children or grandchildren, according to Sandi Rosenbloom, an expert on retirement trends and a professor of planning and civil engineering at the University of Arizona.
Communities that want to attract boomers should focus on adding new residential options to suburban areas or building up local shopping districts, hospitals and recreation centers. Maury County, TN, for example, is boosting its efforts to attract retirees from Nashville and other nearby cities. As a Retire Tennessee community, the region is marketing its affordable housing, community activities and festivals, plentiful shopping and dining, recreational retreats and activities, as well as its health-care options for seniors and continuing education at Columbia State College, in hopes of fulfilling the desires of boomers looking to relocate.
What do you think of this research? How can communities make themselves more boomer-friendly? Please share your thoughts below.