Moving to Suburbia in Retirement

“Millions of older households will need improved transportation options, greater opportunities for engagement, and more access to supportive services.” –Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

Last week, I discussed the idea of moving to the city in retirement. This week, I’ll look at a recent report from Harvard that says a good number of retirees are moving to the country, or at least to less dense areas. Harvard expects that trend to continue. This chart, from the Harvard report, sums up their research. (1)

HH Retirement Graph 2

One astonishing, to me, statistic:

“Among households age 65 and over in the lower-middle income quartile, the median net wealth of homeowners is over 14 times higher than that of renters.”

City is expensive

Older households living within major metro areas are particularly likely to have cost burdens, says Harvard. As we spoke about last week, you may want to try renting in a city to see just how much everything costs before you buy. Anecdotally, I see different prices between different locations for the same grocery store chain. The big costs, says Harvard, are often bigger in the city: housing and healthcare being numbers one and two. This new research contrasts to last week’s Periscope, wherein the writer said that more abundant transportation, among other issues, can drive costs down for retirees in the city.

City prohibits “Granny-pods”

Not long ago, I wrote about the trend for remodeling a home and having the elder generation move in with the kids and grand-kids. Some companies are transforming garages into living spaces for the elderly. Other companies are creating backyard homes—just for grandma! Harvard calls these units “accessory dwelling units (ADUs).”

Many of us think of aging and housing options as a continuum:

  • In-home: Informal Care by Family and Friends
  • In-home: Volunteer services
  • In-home: Supports (e.g., meals)
  • Personal Care
  • Adult Day Care
  • Assisted Living
  • Home Health Care
  • Nursing Home Care
  • Hospice Care

Harvard’s research argues that we need a broader array of housing options for older adults. I think the market is responding—and will continue to create solutions we cannot easily predict.

Local zoning laws may prohibit ADUs. Thus moving to the country—or suburbia with lenient HOAs—may make it easier for a new swath of multi-generational homes. New rules in California and Maryland prohibit or limit the local governments from limiting ADUs. If it works out there, it may happen in a state near you.

Singles or doubles?

57 percent of households in their 80s and beyond are single. Harvard’s research predicts that single-person households age 80 and above will grow to over to 10.1 million Americans. Importantly, single folks have higher disability rates and lower incomes than same-age couples. “As the number of single-person households in their 80s rises in the coming years, so, too, will the demand for affordable housing units that include supportive services.” Folks who live in rural America must find ways to get to healthcare and it’s even more important for the folks who are living on their own.

Technology makes it easier to live in the country

 

Importantly, the Harvard report makes no forecasts about technology—and technology changes almost everything about aging. If medical advice can be delivered to even the most remote areas of the world (through the internet), as it is today, imagine what this could mean for America’s growing rural elderly population. Autonomous driving enables the elderly to move around—without the assistance of the kids. And smart homes have the potential to maintain themselves, alerting the owners, or even other people, to issues that need attention. The future for aging in place—wherever your place may be—has never been more bright!

Next year we’ll do a “future of everything” lunch and learn. If you have a favorite speaker you’ve heard before, please let us know who it is and we’ll see what we can do to bring him or her in to speak.

 

Sources:
 
 
19 Reasons I Am Thankful in 2019
Retiring in the City

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