Baby boomers are altering the American Dream.
After having the home in the suburbs, the kids, the two cars, and maybe even the picket fence, a growing number now want to ride elevators to rental apartments and walk out the door to restaurants. When the kids are grown, an increasing number of empty nesters are selling homes and aspiring to live like urban millennials — in rental buildings full of amenities and free of lawn mowing, shoveling, mortgages and property taxes.
It’s not unusual for empty nesters to consider downsizing and avoiding tasks such as yard work. But typically downsizing has meant buying smaller homes or condos. Now, for a generation with a reputation for setting trends and yearning for freedom, an increasing number want to rent rather than own.
“It’s nice to have freedom,” said Michel Winkelstein, who moved into a River North apartment with his wife, Susan, after selling their Glenview home about three years ago. Michel Winkelstein now walks to work at his downtown law office, and Susan Winkelstein says she feels like she’s on vacation every day. Apartment living at 501 N. Clinton St. frees up time spent on maintenance and they walk to restaurants, plays, movies and musical events.
“We both feel like we are in our 20s,” said Michel Winkelstein.
The number of boomer renters is still small. But there were just 10 million in their 50s and 60s in 2005, and in 2015 there were 15 million. They account for more than half of the nation’s renter growth in the last 10 years, according to Jennifer Molinsky, researcher for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
She calls it a “dramatic increase,” and a trend that’s likely to continue as the giant generation of 77 million people, born between 1946 and 1964, ages and seeks easy living.