Aging in Suburbia
As those of us involved in retail and related industries are aware, an aging population has wide-ranging implications. Amongst other things, the ramifications of boomers’ home ownership are just becoming clear. Many bought homes in the suburbs when their families were young but are still ensconced now.
A study by William Frey at the Brookings Institution, based on the 2010 census, focused on trends in different types of neighborhoods. In The Uneven Aging and “Younging” of America, he examines some of the resulting changes.
The mature population of the suburbs has apparently grown much faster than that in urban areas. According to the report discussed in The Washington Post, “four in 10 suburban residents are 45 or older, up from 34 percent just a decade ago.” Furthermore, Mr. Frey believes that while concerns when people first moved to the suburbs focused on their children and families, older people think more about themselves, their health and well-being.
According to the Post, local planners are predicting younger boomers may consider moving to a more suitable retirement area when they hit 45 or so, but those who haven’t moved by the time they hit 65 are not likely to. John Kenney, chief of aging and disability services with the Montgomery County health department, reckons this could be due to either “choice or default.”
Quoting AARP research that shows nine in 10 older Americans want to stay in their homes as they age, the Post notes opportunities for home adaptations including “kitchen and bath remodeling designs that make the areas accessible for wheelchair users.” Ways to make shopping easier might also be welcomed by those less able to drive than they were when younger or needing more time to cross the road when walking. An observation that more older people are working rather than retiring throws another dimension into a picture of how much money they have and how they are willing to spend it.
Mr. Frey describes the situation as baby boomers “aging in place.” Although his observations relate more specifically to the need for age-related public resources, the inference that retailers need to take note cannot be ignored.
- The Uneven Aging and “Younging” of America: State and Metropolitan Trends in the 2010 Census – The Brookings Institution
- If baby boomers stay in suburbia, analysts predict cultural shift – The Washington Post
Discussion Questions: How might consumption patterns and shopping needs change with an aging population in many of America’s suburbs?