Retirees choosing cities, not just beaches
I love to travel and what I’ve discovered is that there are travelers and there are tourists and they are very different species indeed. Travelers want to get into the culture and history of a country, they look forward to broken English conversations, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty or their hair windblown. Tourists are satisfied with an overview of a country frequently given by a guide from the inside of a giant bus. Not only don’t they want to mess up their hair, the only conversations they expect to have with the locals is when they deliver their umbrella-topped cocktails.
Now before you accuse me of being judgmental, I think everyone should do what they’re comfortable with whether you’re talking about a trip or moving to a new location. And based on a new range of studies there are a lot of middle-aged baby boomers who are making unconventional choices in where they choose to live and retire.
In a 2011 National Association of Realtors poll, 19 percent of Americans said they wanted to live in a city, up from 13 percent in 2004. There is apparently a migration of baby boomers to cities which did start in the 1990s but slowed during the recession. Since many cities have become safer and cleaner, baby boomers who are choosing to retire later or have decided to give up their suburban homes are being drawn by the diversity and convenience of city living.
According to the online real estate brokerage, Redfin, more than a million baby boomers moved within 5 miles of the downtown of the 50 largest cities between 2000 and 2010. In addition, according to the American Housing Survey, 9.6 percent of households 55 and older in central cities lived in condos in 2011, an increase of more than 2 percent since 2005.
So why is this happening? Well baby boomers are not only the largest demographic group in the nation’s history, they are also the first generation who has no intention of growing older. The 55-plus retirement communities built for their parents are not as popular and not as prevalent as they once were. In addition, builders are going out of their way to create city condos with high-end amenities and no trace of grab rails or wide doorways to attract this well-heeled generation. Today’s baby boomers want to be part of the action and living in a city gives them access to theater, museums, restaurants and young people as soon as they walk out their door.
But what about the tradition of retiring south and lounging on the beach or attacking golf balls in your golden years? There are still plenty of people who want that life which is, of course, good news for Florida and Anna Maria, and there are still plenty of people who want both, probably in my opinion the ideal lifestyle if you can afford it. But like everything else the baby boomers have influenced since the day they were born, they are changing the face of retirement and reaching out for living arrangements and real estate opportunities never before considered.
I can’t prove it but I’m guessing that the very same baby boomers who are blazing trails in city neighborhoods are also the ones who travel like travelers rather than tourists. They’re not experiencing life through the windows of a bus, they’re getting their hands dirty and letting their hair blow in the wind.