By Beth Kuberka, Tellico Village
As more baby boomers retire each year, they are driving migration and housing trends across the nation. We surveyed more than 500 boomers living in a Tennessee active adult community to find out what they cared about most when choosing their retirement location.
According to the Population Reference Bureau the number of Americans 65 and older will hit 95 million by 2060 making up 23% of the US population. And Americans are living longer with an average life expectancy of 78.6 years. The bureau also reports that older Americans are more educated, with 29% having completed a bachelor’s degree. They’re also wealthier, with only a 9% poverty rate. These changing demographics mean that what baby boomers want in retirement is also changing.
Older Americans are no longer looking for a place to be taken care of in their final years after retirement, with more disposable income and longer lives in retirement, they’re looking for a new chapter. They want activity, camaraderie, comfort and enjoyment out of life.
According to the 2021 Uhaul Growth Index southern states continue to draw the most transplants, many with a desire to find an affordable destination for retirement. Texas was the leading growth state of 2021, narrowly beating Florida. Tennessee ranks third, South Carolina fourth and Arizona fifth among the top growth states. Kiplinger’s Best Places to Retire report lists multiple southern cities in its top 10 including Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. South Dakota boasts the top spot on that list.
Tennessee’s Tellico Village has seen a huge increase in people moving to the village. The lakefront community in the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park had a nearly 80% increase in new home construction in 2021 because there weren’t enough homes on the market to meet the demand.
The Village surveyed its residents to find out what drove their decisions when choosing where to retire. Out of more than 565 respondents, 141 are under 65, 427 are over 65. Most are not native to Tennessee; 29% have lived in Tennessee less than 2 years, 28% more than five years, 39% more than 10 years and only 3% have lived in Tennessee their whole lives showing that many of these retirees are transplants to the state.
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1. Affordability/Cost of Living
The number one reason respondents say they chose to live in Tennessee is the low cost of living. Nearly 87% ranked this as a reason. A recent study by Bankrate named Tennessee the third best state to retire in 2021. The study ranks Tennessee number one in affordability, due to the combination of below-average living costs and low taxes. Tennessee has no state income tax, and like many of the other southern states that rank high in livability, tax rates remain low.
The second biggest draw for Tennessee is the favorable weather. 85% of respondents ranked this as a top reason for moving to Tennessee. Where retirees historically used to flock to warm coastal towns, increased heat and risk for extreme weather has some rethinking living on the coast. According to CNBC, climate change is now factoring in to retirement location decisions. States in the pacific northwest, California and along the southern coast are most at-risk for extreme weather impacts, encouraging millions of Americans to flock to states in the middle like Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona and Colorado.
Retirees have historically fled the bitter cold winters of the Northeast and northern Midwest, but many no longer want the oppressive humidity and heat of the deep south either, making the mid-south region a desirable location with four complete seasons, and less risk for hurricanes, intense heat, earthquakes and coastal flooding.
3. Natural Beauty
The number three reason that people say they moved to Tennessee was the aesthetic appeal. 83% of respondents cited the natural beauty as a reason they relocated to the area. Americans are moving back toward nature. A recent Gallup poll shows, close to half of Americans would rather live in a town or rural area rather than a city or suburb.
The National Park Service says nature makes you smarter, stronger, healthier and happier. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the country with 14.1 million visitors in 2021. The beauty of the mountains attracts people to relocate to Tennessee and Western North Carolina and is why both states are ranked in the top 20 of Thrillist’s Most Beautiful States ranking.
4. Friendly People
More than 65% of people surveyed said that the friendly people is why the moved to Tennessee. People said they’re looking for camaraderie and friendship in their retirement location as they start this next active chapter of their lives. Older Americans are more likely to join boards and volunteer groups as their time frees up from the daily grind of full-time working life. They want to live somewhere they can fill their social calendars. The south is known for its southern hospitality, and people often have more time to relax together outside of the hustle and bustle of larger cities.
5. Proximity to good hospitals/healthcare
Finally, more than half of those surveyed listed being close to hospitals and good healthcare options was important in their decision of where to relocate. People want to live closer to nature, and prefer towns and rural environments to large, crowded cities, but they aren’t willing to sacrifice good healthcare. Retirees know they are likely to have more doctors’ appointments as they age, and they want it to be convenient.
With an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, they are driving population trends. They want it all, and their retirement decisions are changing the landscape.
About the author:
Beth Kuberka is the marketing director of Tellico Village, a planned active adult community in Tennessee. She oversees all communications, marketing, sales and first impression initiatives for the village. She has nearly 20 years of experience in planned senior community marketing. She spent 8 years at Rarity Bay, working her way up to marketing director before joining Tellico Village in 2012. Kuberka has extensive knowledge of the workings of senior living communities. She has developed several programs, and currently manages an alliance of 88 village-based businesses. She earned a Bachelor in Informational Science from the University of Tennessee in 2004 with a focus on advertising and business marketing.