“I saw people moving here from Florida in droves. I called it ‘the Florida Trail,’ as people had retired from the north to Florida, which was the tradition, only to find they disliked the extreme heat,” she said.
North Carolina has also become a destination for so-called “half-backers” who moved halfway back to their Northeast origins, said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography at the University of North Carolina.
“We have mountains and we have coasts and we have seasons,” said Tippett. “The balance of amenities that the state offers with the cost of living is really nice.”
Florida, however, remains by far the destination of choice. A recent study by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research found the state’s economy is becoming more dependent on tourism and retirees as agricultural lands are increasingly plowed under for housing. Service jobs for retirees have created a lower-skill job structure, the study suggests.
Moves to the state by seniors reached a low point of about 13,000 in 2007, but in 2012 rebounded to about 64,000, even higher than in 2005 when it was about 59,000, according to Stefan Rayer, BEBR’s population director.
“It is difficult for retirees to move to Florida when they can’t sell their houses up north, and stricter mortgage lending rules must have played a role as well,” said Rayer. “Another factor behind the recent uptick in migration may have to do with the stock market recovery, which has improved the net worth of many individuals.”
Rodney Harrell, who studies so-called livable communities for AARP, said many of the top destinations for older Americans, as noted by Frey of Brookings, are the same as those for younger people. Denver; Riverside; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore., and others rank high with both age groups.
“They’re all seeking some of the same elements, like a walkable community and a booming economy, as well as being close to family members,” said Harrell, who also pointed out that the vast majority of retirees do not move at all.
An important consideration, whether moving or not, is to have a home that will not become burdensome later in life when mobility is reduced, Harrell said, noting a push to implement policies like one in Pima County, Ariz., that requires new homes to have stair-free entrances and other amenities for the physically challenged.
“People in general are very poor at planning for yet-unknown circumstances,” said Harrell. “If I’m 75 and healthy, I’m not necessarily going to plan a community where I can walk everywhere if I can still drive.”
With that in mind, AARP has embarked on a project to gauge communities for long-term livability and plans to rate areas on attributes like walkability and disabled access, and to establish a standard for “age-friendly communities.”
New York state may have the largest loss of older movers, about 29,000 per year, but that’s a tiny fraction of the 1 million senior citizens in New York City alone, a number projected to grow 30 percent by 2030, according to Joe Salvo, population director for the city’s planning department.
“This increase is attributable to a number of reasons: walkable neighborhoods with easy access to stores, parks and entertainment as well as transit, existing social networks and nearby family, strong social and community services, and the list goes on,” said Salvo.
Frey’s study indicates that moves by older Americans have rebounded faster than those of younger millennials. The stock market recovery is uniformly cited as a factor.
A recent Associated Press poll found that half of older workers have delayed retirement plans because of the economy.
Merlino, the South Carolina retirement blogger, said there were worrisome times during the recession when the real estate market slowed and the value of stocks fell.
“Despite the recession, we had stayed in the stock market,” Merlino said. “We recouped nicely and went on with our plans.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services
PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PFP-SRS-RETIRE-MOVE