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An Aging Population: Good for Montgomery County

notepad by freestockThe United States is perched on the edge of a major demographic shift in the age of its population. Currently, over 40 million Americans are 65 or older. This number is projected to soar to 73 million by 2030.


We will see this same trend in the D.C. area, especially in Montgomery County. In 1970, 6.2 percent of Montgomery County’s population was over 60. In 2012, that number jumped to 12.9 percent. According to county statistics, that percentage is expected to reach 21.4 percent by 2040.


Montgomery County would be wise to embrace this demographic shift as it represents the potential for significant economic benefit.


According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, adults over 55 control more than 75 percent of America’s wealth. And they’re not afraid to spend it. A 2009 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that consumers over 50 increased spending by 45 percent over the previous decade.


This spending is across the board. A recent US Government Consumer Expenditure Survey shows 55-64 year olds outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, including dining out, entertainment, household furnishing, personal care and gifts. Given a healthy 65 year old has a life expectancy of over 90, this would mean 25 years of increased spending at local businesses and associated sales tax revenues.


Older adults also aren’t often fully retired anymore. Many continue to be active in the labor force.


This new generation of “retirees” spends its time starting new ventures, joining non-profits, embracing part-time work, traveling the globe, learning new skills and meeting new people. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 62 percent of retirees keep working to stay mentally active. This is double the 31 percent who said they worked mostly for the money.


These are the people who make for stronger communities, more engaged citizens and better neighborhoods.


How can Montgomery County attract these leading citizens?


One answer is to create housing options that provide the location, amenities, services and design needs that this growing demographic seeks. Approximately half of 55-65 year olds who are looking for housing prefer an age-restricted community, says Margaret Wylde, president of ProMatura Group, a market research firm that specialized in older consumers.


According to Ms. Wylde, this demographic wants an active community and doesn’t like to feel closed off from the outside world.


Montgomery County, with easy access to mass transportation, shopping, dining and entertainment, can provide real estate choices that resonate with this demographic. Older Americans are primed to relocate to areas that meet their needs. In fact, according to Ms. Wylde, 4.5 percent of those ages 55 to 65 move each year.


We should be attracting these valuable citizens to Montgomery County. They represent a valuable, viable engine for the local economy.


But this real estate need is currently going unmet in Montgomery County. We are working hard to design communities, such as The Stories at Congressional Plaza, that provide residents with an innovative combination of connection, access, and simplicity. We are investing in Montgomery County and embrace the opportunity to meet the needs of all county residents.


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