Rulers of the Burbs

There was a time when living in the burbs meant dodging tricylces, strollers and happy kids playing in the streets. elderly people signThat picture may have changed dramatically if you look at 2010 census data.

We know that boomers are ascendant as a demographic all across the nation, but the suburbs are graying a lot faster than the cities. Four in ten suburban residents are age 45 or older. That’s up 34% from a decade earlier. In the cities, only 35% are over age 45.

The political implications are quite interesting, as it used to be assumed that suburban voters were almost monolithic when it came to voting on issues related to education and kids. Soon, these suburban parents will be duking it out (rhetorically, in the voting booth that is) with boomers who are looking out for their own well-being.

So now we have the first generation to grow up the suburbs deciding to stay put. For the most part, they are not headed to retirement meccas such as Florida or Arizona. At one time, many boomers may have assumed that they would be off the good life somwhere where there’s never any ice or snow, but the dream retirement scenario has hit the wall. It may have to do with affordability or it just may be that they’ve put down roots and don’t want to leave the familiar behind. Either way, they are staying in the burbs and that fact alone will bring a dramatic cultural shift to how we perceive the suburbs and deal with the drama of competing interests clashing over dwindled resources.

votersWhat boomers maynot be prepared for, however, is the lack of services and preparation that is typical for the suburban communities in which they live. It may not be so easy to remain independent in their homes when they hit their 70s or 80s.

The political clout of boomers and their traditional high voter turn-out is going to be formidable. Older Americans currently represent 53 percent of voting-age adults, so there could be a long, drawn out tug of war over how tax dollars are doled out and who has the loudest voice in determining the priorities for community services.

Let’s just hope that we can all get along together.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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