Dec 26, 2012
Bill McMeekin
Bill McMeekin
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Retiree Markets and New Baby Boom Metros

Many communities are finding value in appealing to a new generation of retirees that are looking for a more active and enriching lifestyle.

That great American cohort – the baby boom generation – is starting to retire. Born between 1946 and 1964 and 78 million strong, baby boomers were the architects of the “me generation” and they are used to having things on their own terms, including retirement.

Retirement these days is far more about access to continuing education, outdoor recreation and volunteer opportunities than it is just availability of a golf course and the 4 o’clock seating at Golden Corral. Housing and health care options are important but so are cultural amenities, entertainment venues, hiking and biking trails, and quality retail.

Florida and Arizona, of course, are the granddaddies of retirement destinations, and a report out this week from the On Numbers folks at bizjournals.com underscores that. The study ranked more than 600 U.S. markets based on their concentration of people who are 65 or older and that consistently attract more seniors from other parts of the country.

The list is dominated by markets in Florida and Arizona – Sebring, FL, where 32 percent of the population is over 65 and nearly 92 percent of seniors were born outside the state, was No. 1. But the ranking also includes places like Port Angeles, WA, Grant Pass, OR, Seaford, DE, and Ocean City, NJ in the top 25.

Communities, regions and states have increasingly recognized the value of retirees as part of their economic development efforts.

In Texas, the Go Texan program certifies retirement communities based on a rigorous application process and retiree desirability assessment. The Volunteer State’s Retire Tennessee initiative includes a community certification process and promotes the state’s climate and cost of living among its attributes. Kentucky, too, has promoted its housing options and cost, climate, work opportunities, recreation, performing arts and other amenities to attract retirees.

Baby boomers bring with them more acquired wealth than the generations before them and they will likely live longer and healthier retirements than the generations before them.  It can make good strategy to include drawing retirees as part of an overall economic development program. What’s your take? Is drawing seniors part of your plan and if it is, how do you position your community? Share your thoughts.

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At the other end of the spectrum, demographer Joel Kotkin offers a ranking of the 51 largest U.S. metros based on the percentage change in the population over children under 15 between 2000 and 2010. The top of the list, as can be expected based on population shifts of the last 30 or 40 years, is heavy with Sunbelt metros in the Southeast and Southwest.

The top three:

1) Raleigh-Cary NC, +45.7%
2) Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos TX, +38.2%
3) Las Vegas-Paradise NV, +35.7%

As Kotkin notes: “Since children are by definition the bearers of the future, knowing where new families and households are forming should be of critical interest not only to demographers, but to investors, businesses and, over time, even politicians.”

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