If you consider yourself a baby boomer the chances are that your parents retired in the community where they spent most of their lives. After all that is the place they knew best, where they had the most connections, and where they kept a crucial sense of place. Only a very small minority of retirees of that generation, far less than 10%, took the significant step of moving somewhere else for retirement. Some moved across town to a smaller place, a few moved permanently to a vacation home or somewhere else within the state, and a much smaller and adventurous group moved to a different state, or even out of the country.
Baby boomers, who pride themselves on doing things differently, will undoubtedly be willing to take bolder steps. They have seen other people do interesting things, they have probably moved several times in their lives, and they have dreams that they want to live out. Considerable numbers of baby boomers also have the resources to do whatever they want in retirement, including having more than one home. So the question is, how will baby boomers’ retirements be different than those of the preceding generation? After all, part of the definition of being a baby boomer means starting off from the assumption that whatever your parents did, you can probably do it better. Looking around at what the industry is coming up with and what retirees are starting to do, here is what the editors of Topretirements see as key differences for baby boomers vs. their parents when it comes to retirement locations:
1. Baby boomers do not want to be labeled as old.
No baby boomer wants to admit he is over the hill. All one has to do is look in the early retirement chat rooms and message boards to see references to “geezer communities” - the “seniors” concept is a big negative for most baby boomers. Hence the drive by developers to find the perfect name for their developments – active seniors, active adults, 55+ communities, etc. Or perhaps not bother to give the name any connection at all to age. Instead, build boomers the facilities they want, give it the most romantic and adventurous name they can come up with, and then stand back and let the baby boomers move in, who will conveniently ignore that the development was built for people over 55.
2. More baby boomers will move farther away from where they live now.
Baby boomers have seen the world and most are not afraid of it. If they can find a place that promises more fun, more connections, and a richer environment than where they are now – they’re “outta here”.
3. More boomers will live in 2 places.
The economic resources are there for many of the post WWII generation. For these people, particularly for those who now live in the east and the mid-west, living in 2 places allows them to maintain a connection with their current community, while enriching their life by spending the winter in a warmer place.
4. Baby boomers will take more chances and be a bit more adventurous than their parents.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t plenty of trailblazers among our parents. We’ve seen that it can be done, and this gives us permission to go on from where they left off. Boomers will probably move farther from home, live in more unconventional communities, and be willing to start over again if the first choice doesn’t work out.
5. The types of “retirement communities” are going to diversify
This idea relates to the point just made, today’s new retirees are going to be more adventurous. So as real estate developers try to anticipate what the hot concepts are going to be, they are going to have to get a lot more creative than the stereotypical concept of throwing up a clubhouse, installing a couple of shuffleboard courts, putting up a fancy gatehouse, and then calling it “Leisure Acres”. Instead, the amenities and lifestyle themes are going to become richer and more creative. Golf communities are the current hot ticket for retirement communities, but they are very difficult and expensive to build. Eventually the developers will either run out of room or the people to buy into them. Baby boomers are going to revolt if they have no choice but a sterile gated community that is hermetically sealed from the rest of the world. So the trend towards more integrated communities that combine recreation, commerce, jobs, and culture will become more popular. Abacoa in Jupiter, FL is just one such community.
6. The types of retirement communities are going to get more specialized.
Just the past 2 years has seen many new types of communities coming on stream. In Boulder, Colorado the Silver Sage “co-housing” community is being built. This approach to community housing appeals to a certain segment who want to live more intensely with their neighbors, sharing occasional meals together in their community center, and even meditating together. Other idea are the hobby farm concept – ideal for those who like the idea of being a farmer but want a little expert help in the background - or "fly-in" communities where one lives next to their airplane and airstrip.
7. Small towns are going to re-emerge.
There is a reason why small towns loom so large in our imaginations – they are a powerful ideal where everyone knows one another and shares a sense of community. Many boomers are going to seek out this ideal, looking for towns that are growing, have a vital downtown, plentiful recreational opportunities, and a charming appearance. Madison, CT is a good example of a small town that attracts retirees, even in the northeast.
8. Cultural centers are going to be popular
One form of this is already taking off, with many universities across the country either participating in or permitting developers to build “university-affiliated” developments. These particularly appeal to alumni and former faculty who would like to live in their old college town. The college courses, atmosphere, and sports events that they can participate in provide a rich experience. The Village at Penn State is a prime example. Another development idea that is going to be strong with baby boomers is the idea of communities that are built around culture. A good example of this is the Burbank (CA) Senior Artists Colony. The Colony is designed as a community where artists or would be artists can develop their arts amidst like-minded neighbors. This trend has the support of many professionals who believe that creative engagement is vital to prolonging mental faculties.
9. Living in cities will be more prevalent
A lot of baby boomers either never got to live in the big city, or they only lived in the suburbs. Cities are great for retirees – they are stimulating places, they’ve got public transportation, and something to do every second. An even newer idea is the concept of “urban-lite” as seen in Atlantic Station in Atlanta, GA. Projects like these provide a self-contained city within, or adjacent to the city.
10. More baby boomers will work
True, hundreds of thousands if not millions of baby boomers have inexhaustible resources. But only 50% of today’s working adults believe they have enough money to live comfortably in retirement – either because their expectations are high (after all, they are baby boomers!), or because of the gradual disappearance of the defined benefit pension and concern about the viability of social security. An even more important reason why more boomers will work is because… they want to. A recent Gallup Poll found that 60% of those who said they had enough money to retire still expect to work in retirement. Most of the people who expect to work say they will be looking for part-time work. And the key to working is to be living in a place where you can get a job – even if your choice of work is to volunteer.
Summary – No cookie cutters please!
Many baby boomers will not be happy with the limited retirement choices their parents had – many won’t settle for a cookie cutter community. Not all baby boomers want to live in an age-denominated community either - they just might prefer living around a more diverse age demographic. As we discussed here many boomers will opt for a more creative living solution – many of which probably haven’t yet been invented! New concepts for retirement living are likely to emerge in the next few years – one of them might be a perfect match for you. So if the idea of traditional retirement doesn’t appeal to you, use www.topretirements.com to help you find your perfect spot.
For more about baby boomer retirement check out the articles in the "Tips and Picks" section at Topretirements.
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