Millennials may be increasingly moving to the suburbs as they begin to start families and search for more affordable housing, but a reverse trend has also begun: Their parents are moving to the city. Members of the baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, have increasingly shown a proclivity for city living, and as a result, our cities are beginning to change.

Profile of an Urban Baby Boomer 

It is typical for older generations to downsize once their children move out, but a study from Zipcar revealed that the reason the baby boomer generation has chosen to live out their empty nester years in the city is to take advantage of an urban environment's exciting offerings. The study reported the following:

  • 84 percent of Urban Boomers enjoy being active 
  • 90 percent want to enhance their cultural experiences 
  • 87 percent are attracted to the city for the shorter commute to work, as only 32 percent are retired 
  • 55 percent believe their life is more exciting in the city 
  • 61 percent feel closer to their significant other 
  • 37 percent are having more fun than they did in their 20s
  • 57 percent are unmarried 
  • 33 percent live alone1

In addition to the reasons outlined in Zipcar's findings, the Urban Boomer loves the city for its ease compared to the suburbs, explained Jonathon Smoke, chief economist for According to Smoke, even a city like New York can simplify a Boomer's life.

"If you can afford to live in Manhattan, it's a great place to be older," Smoke said. "You're not shoveling snow. You can walk or get transportation to any doctor or service you need. And you have a friendly doorman that pays attention to you and acts as an additional caretaker."

The Baby Boomer population is also the largest and richest generation to ever retire, and because they are looking for walkable cities filled with things to do, many boomers are moving to college towns.2

We can expect a growth in leisure offerings like theaters and art galleries.

How Baby Boomers Could Change the City 

The wealth possessed by Baby Boomers has led developers to begin building more spacious, extravagant residences that offer amenities, like a 24-hour concierge, that older adults appreciate. 

These new city dwellers not only have more money, but they also have more leisure time, meaning we can expect a growth in leisure offerings like theaters and art galleries. Public transportation will likely be upgraded as well to accommodate an older population. 

The AARP performed a survey of adults ages 50 and above to determine what they most desire in their communities. The survey found, among other things, that 50 percent want a bus stop close to home, 47 percent want a grocery store nearby, 42 percent want a park and 42 percent want a drug store. "Close to home" was defined as within one mile. Based on these desires, in addition to some others represented in the survey, the Chicago Architecture Foundation predicted that soon, Baby Boomers and millennials will team up to ignite change in their cities, as they actually seek pretty similar amenities.

Jean Setzfand, senior vice president of programs at AARP, spoke with about the fact that more mixed-use developments will be going up in cities to accommodate both older and younger generations who seek the convenience of living, shopping, eating and going to appointments in one singular area. 

Clearly, fun and adventure are not only reserved for America's youth, and it seems for many boomers, the excitement of the city is far more appealing than the quiet and relaxation of a typical retirement community. There are many predictions for how the influx of Baby Boomers into the city might affect urban development, but only time will tell which really come true.


3Chicago Architecture Foundation