Apr 29

Downsizing: New Facilities Offer More Options for Boomers

by Tom Howard

BILLINGS – A four-story apartment complex under construction in the Montana Sapphire Subdivision just off King Avenue West in Billings will cater to folks who just might have traded in their minivan for a Harley.

Chances are, many residents of the new Affinity for Living complex will still be working. But with the kids grown, they’re the kind of people who have been looking for ways to simplify their lives.

The Affinity complex is being built with baby boomers in mind, with amenities such as a swimming pool, a library, a computer café, a theater and a pub.

The Affinity complex is what real estate professionals refer to as an age-restricted development, built specifically for people 55 and older.

Just don’t call it a retirement community.

“If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like living in a condominium building with great amenities and great spaces,” said Cecil Rinker, operations manager for Affinity Living Communities.

But rather than investing in a condo, residents will be renting, he said. Affinity is a subsidiary of the Inland Group, a real estate developer that specializes in senior communities, multi-family housing, resorts and hotels.

“There’s nothing like it in Billings,” Rinker said.

Affinity’s Billings development caters to a growing demographic: active people who are nearing or have reached retirement age.

“Building retirement communities is a great niche and serves a population,” Rinker said. But research uncovered an unmet need for a growing demographic.

“What really got people thinking is, we’re providing a different choice,” Rinker said. “We’re developing a campuslike setting with a simpler lifestyle.”

Price and the availability of amenities are important to this age group. “The biggest selling point for us is that we’re an affordable option,” Rinker said.

The complex, scheduled to open this spring, features studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, starting at $1,250 per month, with utilities, cable television and Internet included, Rinker said.

The generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 comprises about 20 percent of the U.S. population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 55-and-older demographic is expected to grow by 4.1 percent per year, four times the rate of growth in the overall labor force.

By contrast, the annual growth rate of the 25-to-54 age group will be 0.3 percent and the number of Americans 16 to 24 will remain flat.

Larry Swanson, director of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Missoula, discussed local demographic trends during a recent Billings Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting.

By 2020, the single largest age group in Yellowstone County will be 62 years old, Swanson said. Construction was one of the community’s fastest-growing industries from 2001 until the recession hit in 2007. Swanson said it’s unlikely that housing construction will rebound to pre-recession levels. But demand will grow for certain types of housing.

“Where will be the most opportunity for housing growth?” Swanson asked. “Assisted living and nursing homes. But also just downsizing. There’s a huge opportunity.”

“I’ll bet you that in Billings in 10 years, you’ll see housing complexes ringing the downtown that you would never have expected, because the time has come with that demographic,” Swanson said. “What happens when (baby boomers) move into a downsized, highquality unit? They’re going to want to sell their homes to younger people. There will be a lot of real estate transactions.”

Blaine Poppler, a partner in Coldwell Bankers Commercial, expects the Affinity development to be a success. “The rental industry in Billings has been extremely good in the last five or more years,” Poppler said. “With our growing population, hundreds of apartments have been built in the last few years. Affinity is providing a different choice. With the additional amenities they’re offering, we expect them to do well.”

The Affinity development is part of the Montana Sapphire subdivision, which has been taking off in recent months. A new Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, a Verizon store, a new church and a car dealership are all going in.

Retirement statistics
Almost one-half of baby boomers 65 and older are now fully retired (up from 19 percent in 2008, with another 14 percent reporting that they are retired but working part-time or seasonally.

  • On average, boomers who have not yet retired plan to do so by age 68.5.
  • Almost four in 10 respondents (37 percent) who retired earlier than they had planned, cite health-related reasons for doing so, another 16 percent cited loss of a job or job opportunities. Those who retired later than they had planned mention needing a salary to pay for day-to-day expenses (27 percent) and a desire to stay active (13 percent) as the reasons for delaying retirement.
  • The majority of boomers 65 and older (63 percent) have started receiving Social Security benefits; of those, half started collecting before they had originally planned. Six in 10 boomers are at least somewhat confident in the ability of Social Security to provide adequate benefits for their lifetime.
  • Seven in 10 retirees report liking retirement “a lot” while another two in 10 say they “like it somewhat.”

Source: MetLife Transitioning to Retirement study

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