Encouraging baby boomers to stay in Lee’s Summit instead of fleeing to the Sunbelt or the Ozarks could be a boon to the local economy, according to a study by the Mid-America Regional Council.
Jeff Pinkerton, a Lee’s Summit resident and researcher for MARC, recently outlined to the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee how the aging boomer population could mean big dollars in the regional economy.
He said their spending on average is nearly the same as the 25- to 34-year-old demographic.
Pinkerton said when he began the study, he didn’t know what the results would show. He said the findings “let people look at this aging phenomenon in a different light.”
About 100,000 people a day will turn 65 during the next 12 years.
“This is not a rural thing; it is not a metro thing. It’s throughout the state,” Pinkerton said.
Baby boomers expect to continue to be more active, and many are planning to retire later than their parents, he said. They can make substantial impact on the local economy.
Their incomes are growing faster and they are staying in the workforce longer.
According to the study, in 1995, 2.4 percent of the workforce was 65 or older, and in 2013 it was 4.6 percent.
“They’re not only more active, they’re being paid more as well,” Pinkerton said.
Keeping 600 more older adults in the region would mean more jobs and a economic impact of half a billion dollars over 10 years, Pinkerton said.
During 2001 to 2103, the study showed, average spending by household for all ages is down by 1 percent. It was down by 6 percent for ages 25 to 34, down 2 percent for ages 35 to 44 and down 5 percent ages 45 to 54. There was no change for ages 55 to 64.
But for ages 65 to 74 spending was up 10 percent, and for those 75 and older, spending was up 9 percent.
Midwest cities like Lee’s Summit may want to compete more with the Southwest or Florida for retirees because of the money they can bring to the bank, Pinkerton said.
The mix of jobs being held by older workers is also shifting, the study showed, with people 65 and older filling more jobs in health care and social assistance, professional scientific and technical services and education.
Employers also are seeing the value of retaining older workers in a job market short on skilled workers.
“Businesses are trying to hold onto institutional knowledge,” Pinkerton said.
And households where residents are 75 years and older, while income may be lower, they are typically spending retirement savings, so spending is still roughly equal to spending of younger households.
Councilman Fred DeMoro asked: “What would be a workable strategy to keep older adults here?”
Pinkerton said cities miss out on economic opportunity if they neglect older households.
The study showed that from 2002 to 2011, the Kansas City region had a net-loss of population to the Sunbelt and the Lake of the Ozarks region.
A net of about 6,000 older adults left the region each year 2007 to 2013, the study said.
He said that while many wanted to work, many also wanted to be volunteers.
“Salary wasn’t that important,” Pinkerton said. “They just wanted opportunities to stay involved.”
He said that housing is a big factor, with the Kansas City region being behind in mixed-use development.
Many older adults want to age in place, but there are significant numbers who want to downsize and have less maintenance.
Cathy Boyer-Shesol, director of KC Communities for All Ages, a MARC program, said mixed-use developments are important because they help address transportation and housing challenges of older adults.
“It really takes care of every age,” she said.
“If I were a business owner, I’d worry about what to do to attract and keep older adults,” Boyer-Shesol added.
Pinkerton said that transportation services will be a challenge for Lee’s Summit’s oldest adults. “We’re a community that’s spread out.”
Councilwoman Diane Seif said that a proposed apartment complex is rejecting city suggestions to include elevators. She said will be a necessary element for apartments for older people.
Councilwoman Trish Carlyle said the city also needs to look at availability of affordable housing.
“Is there anything we’re putting into the community now, can that be for someone trying to start a new family or trying to downsize?” she said.
Age-Friendly Community Survey
The City of Lee’s Summit wants information from residents as it works on becoming an age-friendly community.
The city is asking residents to complete a survey on the livability of the city and their perspectives on what makes a city “age-friendly.”
The anonymous survey will take about 15-20 minutes to complete.
The online survey will end on Aug. 8 with the results to be released a couple of weeks later on the city website: CityofLS.net.
The survey is online at: surveymonkey.com/