Suburban New Yorkers Sherwood and Hyaline Greenberg enjoyed spending winter months in Longboat Key, Fla., for several years. So when it came time for Sherwood to retire from his imported-knitwear business, he and his wife could logically have settled in Florida. But they wouldn't hear of it. Instead, they sold their house on Long Island and moved just 20 miles away to an apartment in Manhattan. There, instead of the warmth and tranquillity of the South, they enjoy the culture and vibrancy of the city--and, above all, the proximity of their two daughters and four grandchildren. "We love having the city right here at our fingertips, and it is so important to us to have our family nearby," says Sherwood, 74, who sees his daughters--one lives just four blocks away--as often as five times a week. "And with the tragedy of what happened on Sept. 11, it is especially a good feeling to know that your kids are right around you."
More and more senior citizens like the Greenbergs are deciding against traditional warm-weather retirement havens like Florida, Arizona and Southern California and are sticking closer to home. Realtors across the country say they are seeing 25% to 50% more retirees stay in or near their hometown, compared with five years ago. In fact, notes Kevin Roth, senior economist with the National Association of Realtors in Washington, "home buyers over the age of 65 move an average of just 15 miles away from their current abodes."
"As people live longer and more dynamic lives, they want to remain active in the communities they've known for so long," says Arlyne Leeds, sales associate in the Locust Valley, N.Y., real estate office of Insignia Douglas Elliman. Leeds estimates that only 2 out of 5 of her clients 65 and over are relocating to warmer climates. A year ago, it was 4 out of 5.
Seniors who are staying closer to home seem to reflect a renewed appreciation for family and community. "In the '80s and '90s, the older generation had more of an emphasis on remaining independent and autonomous," says Alan Clark, a Santa Monica, Calif., psychologist. "These days, there is more of a feeling among these people to stay connected to family and take an active role in one another's lives."
The Sept. 11 tragedies have reinforced that feeling, experts say. And the threat of further attacks in the U.S. gives seniors a greater sense of purpose in their hometowns. "Those who might have been thinking of retiring elsewhere will now instead feel the need to stay put to help out their families, neighbors and communities," predicts Marc Freedman, San Francisco-based author of Prime Time: How the Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America (Public Affairs).
Adult children of retirees want their parents to stay nearby. "This all makes you realize just how precious family is and that you don't want your loved ones living thousands of miles away at a time like this," says one of the Greenbergs' daughters, Caroline Crespo, 40.