Community Leaders Court Seniors To Improve Economic Vitality Of Kansas City Metro

Jun 30, 2015

Kansas City metro-area seniors are healthier and wealthier than their parents, though their spending habits are most aligned with a different generation – millennials.

“Young folks and older folks kind of want the same things,” says Frank Lenk, director of research for the Mid-America Regional Council. “They want lots of amenities near them. They want to be able to have a walkable community with open space and parks around them.”

Lenk presented research Tuesday on the economic contributions of older adults at a seminar for community leaders. For the past three years, MARC’s Community for All Ages project has looked at what can be done regionally to keep seniors from leaving Kansas City.

Lenk compared the shifting demographics to a stovepipe – the baby-boomer generation had fewer kids than their parents, and millennials are having fewer kids than the baby boomers. For the first time, future population projects don’t look like a pyramid, and by 2030, all age groups in the region will be represented relatively equally.

Figuring out what will keep baby boomers in the metro is important, says Lenk, because “they’ve retained their income more than any other age group after the recession.”

In fact, adults ages 65-74 have roughly the same spending powers as millennials ages 25-34.

And seniors aren’t just spending on health care, Lenk says.

“There’s a lot of construction to accommodate this new demographic that’s wealthier than the older folks have been before, healthier than older folks have been before,” he says. “They want to be in places where they can get to services where they don’t always have to drive. That requires construction new kinds of facilities for them.”

After the recession, the number of seniors migrating out of the Kansas City peaked at a little more than 8,000 per year. According to MARC economic models, convincing 600 of them to stay would add more than 2,000 jobs to the region.