From "hope I die before I get old" to "move to the city before I get old"
Both the Wall Street Journal ("Hip, Urban, Middle-Aged") and the Washington Post ("With the kids gone, aging Baby Boomers opt for city life") ran articles this weekend about older people moving back to the city.
Of course, this trend has been going on for 15 years or more, something that I recall in 2003 being referred to as the city being repopulated by "bookend generations" of the young and old.
Note that Columbus, Ohio planner, writer, professor Kyle Ezell wrote a book about seniors returning to the city, Retire Downtown: The Lifestyle Destination for Active Retirees and Empty Nester.
Although I don't have a copy of that book, I do have a copy of his other book, Get Urban!: The Complete Guide to City Living, which makes the very good point that you can get an urban experience without having to live in the biggest center cities.
Interestingly, this weekend I happened to see an incredible downtown loft condo (image left) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the abode of yes, two seniors, who happen to be retired from teaching at Franklin & Marshall College.
The apartment, dressed up with large artworks, the NYRB, The Nation, and a basket with recent issues of the New York Times, could easily have been in Brooklyn.
Will older residents bring a suburban attitude to city issues, including night life?
The articles seem to indicate an interest in giving up the car, and living in walkable and transit-accessible places. So that's a good thing.
I have to admit I have yet to see older people riding bikeshare bikes. That could be an interesting area to pursue for sustainable mobility take up. (When I did the bike and ped plan in Baltimore County, I was surprised to discover that one senior center, Ateaze, had an active and hardcore bike affinity group. Similarly, other retirement communities--but not many--also promote biking. See "Freewheelers: The Old Spokes bicycling club members venture from retirement community to cruise the streets" from the Philadelphia Inquirer.)
My biggest concern is that people who lived in monoculture suburbs for the past 30 years move to the city, but still expect many elements to be more suburban-like as it relates to late night uses and noise generated by younger consumers of the city.
This is a big deal because many "neighborhood" commercial districts often immediately abut residential areas, such as H Street NE or 8th St. SE, or the "Living Downtown" which intermixes residences and commercial uses.
E.g., I recall complaints by an older Capitol Hill couple who sold their house, moved to an apartment or condo downtown, and then complained about the rooftop deck related noise of a local tavern.
Or even noted urbanist Roberta Gratz has been opposed to the opening of a tavern on the ground floor of her apartment building in Manhattan (see "Next to Central Park, Anger Over a Planned Bar" from the New York Times).
I've written about this issue quite a bit, although not so much focused on older demographics, as much as demographics that age out from partying many nights/week while living in hip urban district, and so they move. See the past blog entry "Daypart and age-group planning in mixed use (commercial) districts."
But the reality is that noise, etc., is a legitimate issue
Stand on a neighborhood street corner in Georgetown on a Saturday night, after 3 am, when the bars have closed. It's cacophony. (You know how it is--as people drink more they get louder and louder.)
I sleep pretty soundly. But it could be enough to wake me up. And for people who don't sleep soundly, it could be pretty aggravating.