Aging America Staying Put
By Tom Purcell
My sisters and I were saddened when my parents sold the old house.
It was a two-story, four-bedroom design that was typical of 1960s suburbia — a house designed to raise children. The bottom half of the exterior was brick; the top half, white aluminum siding. Inside, the rooms were efficient and comfortable. Eventually, my father remodeled the basement into a family room.
For so many years, that house was the hub of a lot of people's lives. The door was never locked and aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors stopped by for visits. My mother always wanted to host holiday celebrations, especially Thanksgiving, and on such occasions the house was filled to the brim with people.
My parents bought the house new in 1964, when I was 2, and lived there until 1999. As I said, we were all saddened to see them move. And the trend in recent years is that fewer Americans, particularly older Americans, are moving to new homes.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23.2 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds moved between 2012 and 2013, but only 3.7 percent of Americans 65 or older did so.
The Department of Health and Human Services forecasts that by 2030, there will be 72.1 million seniors, representing 19.3 percent of the population — which means American mobility will continue to decline.
Consider: In the mid-1980s, as the economy boomed, one out of five Americans was on the move to seize new job opportunities and, in many cases, purchase a home. In the past few years, however, American mobility declined from more than 20 percent moving in the '80s to approximately 11 percent. As America ages, it is unlikely that geographic mobility will ever return to the levels seen 30 years ago.
Also, the majority of people who do move relocate close to their prior residence — often to buy their first home. Approximately 25 percent of the people who moved between 2012 and 2013 were renters, compared to only 5 percent who already owned homes.
So what's the problem with America's declining mobility rate? Moving is one sure way for those who are unemployed or underemployed to improve their lot — as Americans have historically chosen to do.
With the unemployment rate hovering at just under 8 percent — and a record number of Americans who have dropped out of the workforce — moving can offer a solution.
According to Salon, there are 50 metro areas in the country where the unemployment rate is just under 10 percent — but 60 metros where the unemployment rate is 4.5 points lower. If Americans returned to the mobility rates of the mid-'80s, you can only imagine how much lower the unemployment rate would be.
Moving is not easy, I know. Though my parents moved to a nice, big contemporary home that houses many family members for holiday events, my sisters and I often talk about the old house.
We remember Sundays when we were little and our dad made scrambled eggs and bacon and we'd put cinnamon and sugar on our buttery toast. Our dog Jingles lived the good life under the large shrubs by the front porch. I remember all the neighbors coming outside to clang kitchenware when the Steelers won that first Super Bowl.
There's a big part of me that wishes things would never change. I wish my Uncle Mike and Aunt Jane were still alive, and we could enjoy a beer on the old back porch, which was never wanting for a cool breeze. I wish my parents would stop aging, because I know they won't be here one day.
Moving forward is never easy, but it is what we must do — or we never will.
© 2015 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.
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