Why More Retirees are Choosing to Live in Urban Areas

Senior couple navigating urban city together

Many baby boomers dream of retiring to beautiful vacation destinations. Age restricted active adult communities have responded by offering convenient living in picturesque settings. Whether dreams include a beach, mountain or desert retirement, chances are there is a 55+ community ready to cater to that dream.

Benefits of an Urban Retirement

Yet there are a number of retirees who would prefer to spend their retirement years in more urban environments. There are many reasons behind urban retirement.

1. Sticking with the familiar, or looking for a change of pace

Some retirees have always been city dwellers and want to stay in their current homes where they can live near familiar people and places. Others may have been happy to raise their children in the suburbs, but want to move back to the city once their children are grown and on their own.

2. Easy to get around

In an urban environment, public transportation is more readily available than it is in a rural setting. Retirees who do not want to drive can easily live without owning a car. Grocery stores, drug stores, banks and places to meet other daily needs can usually be found within easy walking distance.

3. Diverse social culture

Cities often have diverse social and cultural environments as well. Shops, museums, theatres, and concert halls can all be found in most urban areas.

4. Easy, minimal home

For some retirees, an urban lifestyle is attractive for its minimalist home environment. An efficient condo or loft, with no garden or outdoor space, may be easier to maintain than a single-family home. Shared features within the condominium may include concierge service, a fitness center, theater room, party room or other amenities. Some retirees may simply prefer living in the bustle of a city surrounded by residents of all ages.

Will They Come?

Does this mean that the growing population of retiring baby boomers will flock to urban areas? Not necessarily. As recently reported by Mike Thomas in the Orlando Sentinel, some city developers such as those in downtown Orlando had big plans to sell upscale urban condos to an expected influx of new retirees, yet this targeted demographic never showed up.

Retirees in their 50s and 60s are a diverse group and can have very different ideas about an ideal retirement location. Not every aging baby boomer is interested in life on a golf course, neither is there a consensus when it comes to urban dwellings. Those who opt for an urban retirement are most often retirees who already live in the city. While retirees who do relocate upon retirement, are more likely to move away from urban centers.


55+ active adult communities offer an impressive variety of recreation activities, social clubs, and other services. For retirees who stay in their urban homes, there are services available that provide some of the same benefits residents receive in active adult communities. Urban neighborhoods that are not age restricted or developed for retirement living, yet are largely populated with adults over 50 years old, may be considered naturally occurring retirement communities (NORC). NORCs are not a new concept.

With so many baby boomers now reaching retirement age, a NORC paradigm is often a good fit for those who want to remain in an urban environment but gradually adapt their lifestyles to their changing needs. NORC programs work toward providing retirees with community services, from exercise classes and social clubs to personal shoppers and home health care workers.

Whether retirees opt for urban, suburban or rural environments, they are looking for active lifestyles with services that promote convenient living. Both city developers and suburban active adult communities who wish to attract retirees are most successful when they offer social clubs, classes, and activities that meet the needs of active adults.

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