Hello Big City, Here We Come (Back)!

If you feel a strong pang of longing when you think of those heady, exhilarating days when you were young and starting your career and living in the Big City (somewhere), and if you’re now thinking, “Maybe I’ll move back to the city now,” you are not alone. Many boomers, now past the years of children and school volunteering and neighborhood parent groups are thinking, not, “time to move to the sunny southwest” but, rather, “time to return to the urban life!”

Yes, unlike the World War II generation that seems to prefer hot climates and planned senior retirement communities, looks like we’re doing it our way once again. According to realtor.com,

Instead of migrating south en masse to retirement communities in the Sunshine State or the wilds of Arizona, more and more baby boomers—a particularly urban-savvy group of Americans—are moving back to the metro areas they abandoned when they began raising families. And in leaving their suburban homesteads, these empty nesters are redefining the urban centers they now call home. Again.

Statistics are revealing the direction we’re going. In 2013 and 2014, just 11% of home buyers aged 50 to 59 bought in urban areas and central cities; one year later, that number rose to 13%. That’s an 18% increase. And given that the sheer number of boomers is so high – at close to 75 million, an 18% increase in whatever it is that we’re doing is a giant change. And it’s going to affect the businesses and markets around us.

According to Jonathan Smoke, the chief economist at realtor.com, it seems that cultural stimulation, ease of access, freedom from constant use of a car, and access to a varied array of restaurants, shops, theater, and cultural activities are what attract us. Looks like we want to be active and challenged and engaged in life in the city, not partake in a menu of activities planned by retirement centers specifically for older people. Many boomers are choosing now to live in the most walkable cities and many college towns. We’ll step out on our own, thank you.

I find this very enticing as I look to the future. I love where I live, in a beach community within walking distance of the ocean, but I do get misty eyed thinking about my days as a young lawyer living in New York City. That was a helluva good time and I do miss the feast of shops and restaurants and little parks and beautiful architecture and street performers and theater productions and even the noise and craziness of living in the city. It was all there, and I could get to just about anything I could imagine by taking a walk, subway trip, or cab ride.

I talk with friends from time to time about jointly buying an apartment in New York, with the idea that we’ll each use it for a few weeks at a time throughout the year. But I think too about making the city not a place to visit but maybe my home again, at least for half the year, splitting my time equally between urban and beach living. Looks like my thinking isn’t unique. Perhaps I’d better get moving before all the other boomers beat me to the best places.


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