March 20 2014

Why Grandma is Moving to Denver, Not Miami

Denver has the longest winter of any of the U.S. cities, averaging over fifty inches of snowfall per year, and has an average annual temperature more than twenty-five degrees lower than Miami, Florida. So why is grandma moving to Denver and not Miami?

Despite the chilling winters, Denver also has 300 days of sun, and plenty of attractions like museums and sports teams. In addition, Denver has a booming economy and good urban planning and design features to support seniors. ranks Colorado higher on their list of “Best Places to Retire [in the US]” than frequently cited retirement areas like Florida and California.

The State of Colorado also has one of the highest life expectancies in the entire United States at nearly eighty years, and ranks above Florida and Arizona in this regard. As the state’s largest metro area, Denver captures many aging adults.

Denver has good transportation options for aging adults who are limited or can no longer use a car. Carpooling and van-sharing programs like Lakewood Rides, bike-sharing programs, and good bus and light-rail systems are prevalent. Walkability enhancements like those found in Boulder help seniors navigate their cities without a vehicle. Denver has infrastructure to support adults much better than the sprawling, spread-out areas of Miami or Phoenix. Many of these assets will be further explored in future Denver blog posts.

Three city buses near Denver, Colorado

Three city buses near Denver, Colorado

Denver also has co-housing. Co-housing communities are small-scale neighborhoods that provide a balance between personal privacy and living in a small, tight-knit community. These co-homes are entirely self-sufficient. Developments are designed, planned, and managed with the intent of having a high degree of resident participation in community decision-making—making them ideal for increasing the quality of life of aging adults and livability of the community. There are two exemplary examples of co-housing in the Denver region:

Harmony Village near Denver, Colorado

Harmony Village near Denver, Colorado

Harmony Village near Denver, Colorado

Harmony Village near Denver, Colorado

Another urban planning factor enhancing Denver’s ability to prepare for the looming Baby Boom generation are progressive Accessory-Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinances, to help seniors live autonomously near friends or relatives and family members.

It’s not to say cities like Phoenix or Miami are bad – they still rank high on “best of” lists for seniors and certainly have their pros. But cold, snowy Denver may just make up the gap before most Baby Boomers have put down their final roots.

Do you think seniors are more concerned about climate or are there other important factors urban planners can influence? Do you think co-housing could be used in your city to attract seniors? What are other important factors to consider when creating age-inclusive cities?

Credits: Images by Jonathan Knight. Data linked to sources.

Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight is an award-winning planner and a recent graduate of Kansas State University with a Master's of Regional and Community Planning and Minor in Business. His interest in planning probably came from his avid playing of "Roller Coaster Tycoon" as a child: always fascinated in how complex things in the built environment worked; how they fit together; and why people feel certain ways in different environments. He has worked in sustainability, regional planning, and school planning. He is a professional freelance photojournalist and has been published in national, regional, and local publications. Upon graduation, Jonathan followed his dreams of living near the Rocky Mountains and moved west to Denver, Colorado. At some point during his time at The Grid in 2014, he will have climbed all 58 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado--a 12-year journey completed! Jonathan will be blogging about innovative urban planning, transportation, and housing projects occurring in the Denver region as it seeks to be a world-class city for businesses and people.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2014 at 9:35 am and is filed under Content, Housing, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Why Grandma is Moving to Denver, Not Miami”

  1. Michael Lewyn Says:

    Is there any evidence that seniors actually ARE moving to Denver? Or is this article about why they SHOULD be moving to Denver?

  2. Jonathan Knight Says:

    Hi Michael, thanks so much for reading the article and your interest in the subject. To answer the question: Both.

    Is there evidence? Yes. Please see this study discussed by the Phoenix Business Journal that places Denver in the Top 5 for seniors as compared to cities like Miami (15), Orlando (7), Jacksonville (8), and only 3 from California; none higher than Denver.

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