Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Retiring Baby Boomers


I've been lucky enough to have a lot of smart friends. One of whom noticed that I probably haven't talked enough about the demographic group that already HAS changed American cities in profound ways: Baby Boomers. And more specifically, the aging of this population bubble as the first boomers turn 65. The reason for this, is that my readership is comprised of a relatively younger crowd and also that many developer types (and cities) are interested in tapping the Millennial demo. Today I received this note:
Doesn't it seem like the right time to move away from putting ma and pa in a endless network of newly constructed old timer homes and instead developing walkable communities for boomers on fixed incomes where people can be close to services, recreation and community activity? Doesn't that sound pretty much like mixed use community?
Absolutely. I have compared "retirement communities" to warehouses. Much like schools with children we are shelving those that we deem to no longer be "contributing" to society, even though children provide vibrancy and our elders provide experience and wisdom. Because we live in silos where the only calculation that matters is your income, they don't matter in a neo-classical economic world.

Some might say, "but that's what they want", and to that I say that is BS. Why are the Upper East Side and Key West some of the most desirable places to retire? Because they allow senior citizens who may no longer wish to drive or their faculties for driving begins to escape them. Areas with high measure of "propinquity" and option of transportation mode will be important not only for the Millennials (who want to be near their family, if not living in multi-generational homes) but also for the retiring Baby Boomers as well.

Furthermore, for the most part, they are the ones that have much much much more wealth to afford perhaps the brownstone/townhome component of a mixed-use walkable community.

If I know Baby Boomers, they are opinionated and they are individualistic. You try sending them to the warehouse.