Should seniors stop moving to the suburbs?

Agents working with downsizing seniors may want to shift their clients’ focus away from the suburbs, says the author of a report finding older generations in car-dependent neighbourhoods are increasingly stuck at home.
“Seniors living in highly automobile-dependent suburbs who lose their licenses can suffer a decreased quality of life as a result,” said Zachary Patterson, the author of the report. “At least if they live in central neighbourhoods with good access to medical services and public transit infrastructure they will not suffer so much from the loss of automobility.”
Patterson, who is also a professor at Concordia University and holds the Canada Research Chair for Transportation and Land Use Linkages for Regional Sustainability, examined census data from 1991 to 2006, and found the senior population is moving out of Canada’s six largest metropolitans much faster and in larger numbers than other demographics.
In particular, the senior population on Montreal’s West Island is expected to grow by nearly 45 per cent from 2012, to 42,000 in 2018.
New CMHC findings suggest seniors now make up a large percentage of condo dwellers in major urban centres. The development reverses the trend Patterson’s data captured a decade earlier. In fact, according to the Crown corporation, in 2011, just over 26 per cent of seniors lived in owner-occupied condominiums.
“Population aging, shrinking household sizes, increasing urbanization, and the high cost of housing in some parts of Canada contributed to the strong growth in condominiums,” the CMHC said in its report, “a form of tenure that spares residents direct responsibility for seeing too much of the maintenance and upkeep required to keep their homes in good physical condition.”
While that lack of maintenance is a prime reason for seniors moving to these communities, Patterson says agents should also highlight easy access to infrastructure, including daily amenities and medical facilities.
“People are interested in seeing more seniors move back to the city because that’s where the infrastructure is already in place for a better quality of life for people with limited mobility options,” Patterson said. “But when you look at actual data rather than anecdotal evidence, it’s clear that seniors prefer the suburbs. The issue is important for planning future transportation systems, as well as for its implications on the future welfare of the large baby-boom generation now starting to enter retirement.”
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