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Whatever you do, don’t call them seniors, a word most of the country’s 76 million baby boomers consider a pejorative.

That’s one of the few certainties about this huge generation spanning two decades, 1946 to 1964. The oldest are nearing 70, while the youngest just passed AARP’s 50-year threshold. More than one-third are single females.

How they will navigate the coming decades is still not clear, but leading-edge boomers — those born between 1946 and 1955 — who have been empty nesters, weathered the recession and possibly retired, give a good indication of what’s ahead: they are more active than earlier generations, meaning anything from involvement with grandchildren to sports to community participation.

Many want to work after retirement, either by choice or necessity. The net worth of a typical baby boomer family is less than half of what it would have been if the financial crises had not intervened. Still, over the next five years, boomers are expected to spend $1.9 trillion (or more) on home purchases. Approximately 40 percent will move, but a good number will not venture too far from their current address. Health, grandchildren and finances matter most.

What Baby Boomers Want In a New Home

“Sometimes the move at 50 is horizontal,” says John Egnatis, CEO of Grenadier Homes in Dallas. “Some stay close to where they lived before. They might move to a new house, but they want to stay in a similar area rather than having to rebuild an entire network of friends, doctors, etc.”

Diversity Matters to Boomers

Even so, many seek a lifestyle change. “Quite a few of our buyers have visited places down South. They love the resort ambiance, so they are looking for something close to family and friends with that same resort feeling,” says Tammy Barry, director of marketing for Heritage Harbor Ottawa, a 142-acre marina resort master-planned community on the Illinois River, 90 minutes southwest of downtown Chicago.

For younger boomers, traditional retirement communities may not have the same appeal as master-planned communities do knowing they will be socially comfortable in a diverse neighborhood they expect to live in for a long time is important. Barry describes her community as “stroller-to-walker” — offering amenities for young families and older residents — and says residents love the variety of activities this diversity provides as well as the opportunity to interact and become friends with people of many ages. Overall, developers are investing more in clubhouses and community amenities that extend the living beyond the home and create ways for residents to interact.

Another catalyst to relocate is cost of living, which is why so many small towns appear on lists of places to retire. Often less expensive, college towns offer an eclectic mix of both activities and residents, so it’s no surprise places like Oxford, Miss., or Athens, Ga., are beginning to pop up on the retirement horizon. The proximity to the University of Georgia, and also Atlanta, is part of the appeal of the Georgia Club, an active adult golf community outside of Athens. “They can lay their head down anywhere, but when they lay their head down here, they are revitalized,” says Kathy Phillips, a real estate agent with The Georgia Club.

 

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