Seniors Moving to the Country ... And the City

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 06, 2009

This is fun. Planetizen, the urban planning website, is running two news articles today: Boomers Get Rural and Not So Fast - Seniors Moving to Cities.

The former is a link to a report in Oregon Environmental News citing data from the US Department of Agriculture that predicts aging Baby Boomers will move to the rurals in large numbers.

Demographers are talking about a genuine "deconcentration" of population near metro centers. Urban areas will see a net loss of people age 55 to 75, while in non-metro areas that age group will increase by 1.6 million nationally during the next 10 years.

The latter is a link to a report in the Mercury News citing data from the US Environmental Protection Agency that finds a big increase in residential redevelopments in city centres.

Today, developers and designers want to create more communities in areas where amenities, services and infrastructure already exist. "Walkability" is a key element in urban and town-center housing developments.

In a survey of more than 1,500 seniors this year, 57 percent said being near a shopping center was important when choosing a new community. More than half of seniors surveyed reported that being near a hospital or doctor's office was important, according to the report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

On closer inspection, however, it looks like these two reports are not so contradictory as they seem. The report on Boomers moving to the country continues:

Researchers say boomers have an affinity for the country. Their childhoods coincided with the rise of suburbia, but their parents often had rural connections and those "hometown ties" are a strong influence when empty-nest boomers quit work.

It's not a permanent shift, however. Researchers believe the rural phase lasts about 15 years, during which the boomers will age from their late 50s to their early 70s. Some will return to the city, where medical care, public transportation and family are available.

The Mercury News report also acknowledges this crossover:

Building in suburban town centers provides the same benefits as urban redevelopment. These areas are less dense and suggest a slower lifestyle than cities, but still provide access to shopping, hospitals and cultural centers.

Suburban developers with stalled retail projects are redrawing site plans to include mixed-use developments with senior housing in town centers.

What both articles agree on most strongly is that Boomers are looking for communities: places where they can get to know their neighbours and become involved in neighbourhood life.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 06, 2009 at 14:34:52

"Suburban developers with stalled retail projects are redrawing site plans to include mixed-use developments with senior housing in town centers."

In other words, what Centre Mall was supposed to be. That's Hamilton for you. Always a generation behind urban planning trends.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2009 at 14:39:46

the sign at centre maul says something like "the new face of shopping". Have these guys been buried in an avalanche for the last 4 decades or something???

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