Majority of older Americans want to “age in place,” not move to the city

An article profiling some suburbanites who moved to the city as older adults admits that this isn’t the path desired by most Americans:

But you didn’t move back into the city, did you? Instead, you’re doing what the vast majority of American adults prefer to do: “aging in place.” According to a recent survey of adults 45-plus by AARP, 80 percent of respondents agreed that “what I’d really like to do is remain in my local community.”

But for those willing to make the exodus, the move into Chicago proper can be extremely rewarding…

Still, the Zimmermans’ move into town runs counter to overall trends. The 2015 data from the National Association of Realtors show that among “repeat buyers” (most likely to be boomers and Gen Xers), only 12 percent are buying in urban areas. An equal number are going to rural areas, 20 percent are going to small towns, but most — 53 percent — are buying in the suburbs.

And here’s a bit of a shocker: Although studies show that a third of retirees don’t expect to move at all, those who do move are not necessarily even downsizing. According to a recent survey by Age Wave, a firm that specializes in research on the aging population, only about half of retirees 50-plus who move after retiring choose a home that’s smaller; 19 percent move to a place of equivalent size, and 30 percent actually upsize.

There are always a good number of stories about urban revivals and people flocking to American big cities for the amenities and short commutes. However, the stories tend to obscure that the majority of Americans do not choose this path. When asked, many Americans say they want to live in small towns than anywhere else.

Particularly for older adults, the move to the city is probably only possible for those with significant means. Additionally, where many of those people want to move – is in nicer neighborhoods with cultural events, access to jobs, and newer construction – as opposed to living in many of neighborhoods of the city.

At the same time, aging in place in the suburbs presents unique challenges with its emphasis on single-family homes and driving. Homes can be difficult to maintain for decades and driving may not be possible at a certain point. Then, the spaciousness of the sprawling suburbs can be a significant hindrance to providing social services.

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