As America’s population ages and the baby boom generation retires in droves, cities big and small are doing everything they can to lure seniors – and gain from their economic clout.
But for everything urban centers are doing to attract older people, the cities whose over-65 populations have grown fastest since 2000 haven’t had to try all that hard. That’s because retirees have been doing what they’ve done for decades – migrating South and West. In these regions, the cities that grew fastest tended to have several features in common: big universities, which offer access to educational and other opportunities, good medical systems, a vibrant cultural life, and access to beautiful places outdoors.
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Those who retired in the last decade were primarily members of the “Greatest Generation,” while the current decade’s are baby boomers. Northern cities are betting that boomers want something different and that by adding better services and amenities, they can keep more of their retirees than in the past.
Brookings Institution demographer William Frey analyzed urban population trends for people 65 and older from 2000 to 2010 (the latest data available). He notes that many of the cities whose senior populations grew fastest have knowledge-based and diversified economies that attracted boomers prior to the last decade. So some of the increase in these cities represents not seniors who have moved there recently – but those who moved there some time ago and stayed. As they’ve aged in place, these cities’ senior populations have taken off.