Much has been made in the press lately about the phenomenon of seniors who in their old age move back north again to be near family and friends. The New York Times reported that for the first time since the depression more older Americans left the south than those who moved there. Many of the elderly (75 years or older) are the so-called "halfbacks" - people who moved to Florida in their 60's who are now moving to the Carolinas or mid-Atlantic states (half-way back north). Indeed the Orlando Sentinel reported on the results of the 2008 American Community Survey in September, 2009: "For asecond consecutive year, census figures show more people moving out of Florida to other states than moving in from other parts of the country". Thanks to births the overall population grew a slight .4% in the 2008 Census. An expert from the University of Florida, Stan Smith, believes that the housing crisis and job losses are behind the net out-migration.
The actual numbers are fairly startling - the Census Bureau study reports that about 121,000 people 75 years or older left the south in the 2000-2005 period, while 87,000 moved to the region. The same survey done 10 years prior found the reverse; 57,000 seniors moved out of the south and 92,000 moved in.
The experts don't completely understand the reason for the switch in migration patterns, which could be a complex statistical or generational issue. There is some agreement on why older retirees tend to move north, however. The overwhelming reason for moving northward seems to be nearer family or old friends - often one spouse dies and the survivor moves to be closer to existing kin. Or in the case of both spouses moving, senior services might be better in the north, or reduced health propels the move. Some people find they just don't like living in Florida, or are unhappy about the direction of the State, which has had its share of fiscal real estate woes in recent years.
One thing to keep in mind in this study is that only a relatively small percentage of the population over 75 ever moves. Another is that it makes sense that those seniors who move to the south from the north and make the strongest personal connections are more likely to stay there in their older age. Looking for a list of retirement communities by state? Check out our state retirement guides