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For Seniors, Family is The Biggest Reason To Move

The importance of proximity to loved ones

When Americans age 55 and older decide to relocate, most often it’s to be closer to family and friends.

One of the most common reasons people ages 55 and older decide to move is to be closer to family and friends, according to an analysis by the National Association of Home Builders and the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

According to 2007 data, about 40% of people in this demographic who moved into age-qualified active-adult communities did so to be close to friends and/or relatives, compared with 20% who said the same in 2001. And 31% of those who moved into other 55-and-older owner-occupied communities said the proximity of friends and/or relatives was a reason why, compared with 25% who said the same in 2001.

Experts recommend people set aside an emergency fund equal to about six months of income — a steep figure for those who struggle to save. The solution is to start small and make it fun, says Mackey McNeill, a personal financial specialist and founder of Mackey Advisors.

The report, “Housing for the 55+ Market: Trends and Insights on Boomers and Beyond,” was an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey data.

Other reasons that drove housing choices: quality, design and layout of the residences.

One possibility of why being close to family has become a motivator for this group might be related to their experiences with their own parents, said John Migliaccio, director of research at the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“Baby boomers have had more caregiving responsibility for their older parents,” he said, and many learned how challenging it can be to care for a parent who lives in Florida when offspring live in the Midwest, for example. As a result, they might choose to live nearer to family.

Builders already have responded to this desire, he said, building communities to suit this segment of the population throughout the country — not only in traditional retirement hot spots, he added.

While the NAHB has tracked the 55-and-up market for decades, the data in the analysis “gives us our first look at specific consumer behaviors and preferences — what they look for in a home, the reasons why they move, the characteristics of the communities they choose — over an extended period of time,” said David Crowe, the NAHB’s chief economist, in a news release.

Other findings:

The majority of 55 and older households do not live in age-restrictive or age-qualified communities, but the number is going up. In 2007, 3% of those 55 and older said they lived in age-restricted communities designed for active adults; that’s up from 2.2% in 2001.

Most consumers of this age were happy with their current homes, but residents of age-restricted active-adult communities had the highest satisfaction rates.

Of baby boomers close to 65 years old, the traditional retirement age, many say they aren’t planning on retiring just yet. If they move, they want to end up in a community that would be closer to work or one that would allow them to transition into a work-from-home setup.

“Some findings, such as the tendency for buyers in 55+ communities to continue to work in greater numbers and for longer periods of time, show us that this group is redefining the traditional notion of retirement,” said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in a news release. Of those 55 and older who chose to move into a single-family detached home, 17% said proximity to work was a reason in 2007’s data, compared with 11% in 2001.

To accommodate seniors intending on working from home, new homes are built with flexibility in mind, Migliaccio said. A room may be used as an office initially, but can be converted into a second bedroom, for example, he said.

And when people in this age group make a purchase, they’re also thinking of how they’d be able to age in place — selecting layouts that will enable them to live in the home for years to come, he added.

SALMON Health and Retirement