It’s the traditional migratory circle of life: Young folks flock to the blazingly bright cities to make their careers and have their kicks; middle-aged peeps move to the burbs, buy homes, and raise their broods; older Americans search out warmer, cheaper, and more water-aerobic-centric climes to make their retirement nests. End of story, right? But hold on. Baby boomers have changed just about everything over the past few decades. Now, as more enter their twilight years, they’re changing the face of American cities, too.
Instead of migrating south en masse to retirement communities in the Sunshine State or the wilds of Arizona, more and more baby boomers—a particularly urban-savvy group of Americans—are moving back to the metro areas they abandoned when they began raising families. And in leaving their suburban homesteads, these empty nesters are redefining the urban centers they now call home. Again.
Boomers, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, are the largest and wealthiest generation to ever retire—a fact hardly lost on savvy developers and businesses. Larger and more expensive city residences chock-full of active senior–friendly amenities, like round-the-clock concierge services, are going up across the country, And more upscale, boomer-targeted shops and restaurants are opening their doors to serve these newly minted urban dwellers.
The numbers are beginning to tell the tale. Only 11% of buyers aged 50 to 59 closed on homes in urban areas and central cities from July 2013 through June 2014, according to a 2015 National Association of Realtors® report. A year later, that percentage had edged up to 13%. At first glance it doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming leap, but when you consider that there are an estimated 74.9 million boomers, even a minority can make an impact.