New Orleans as a Retirement Destination

Everyone seems to agree that the city’s economy is in need of some serious restructuring if we ever want to enjoy a decent quality of life, and most people seem to think they have the answer. I think just about everyone agrees that tourism is not sustainable as the main industry. I’ve heard lots of people say we need to be a technology ( i.e. computers) leader, although we probably missed the boat on that one. Lots of people are already working on building up our biotech industry, which I think is a good idea but probably another ten years down the road before we see a real return on that investment. Anyway, I was thinking about it and it seems like the city is missing out on a pretty obvious way to beef up our economy; out of town retirees. After you quit laughing, bear with me for a second.

The baby boomers are just starting to turn sixty. This is a huge segment of the population that will be retiring over the next decade or so, and they have a lot of fucking money. And lots of them are not content to move to some gated condominium complex in Florida. That’s what their parents did, and nobody likes to follow in the lame ass footsteps of their parents, right? This is the generation of rock ‘n roll and free love. Not all of them, but at least some of them are probably looking to retire someplace that’s a little more in-tune with the flamboyant excesses that characterize their generation. Do you see what I’m getting at here? The beach bum types we’re not going to attract, but people who like art, food, music, Mardi Gras and all that other shit we’re famous for, well they’re not going to find that in Florida or Phoenix or wherever else people go to die now. We’ve got warm weather, a casino, museums, theater, nightlife… fuck, I’d retire here!

Now obviously with the crime where it is we’re probably not going to be attracting many regular folks, let alone elderly ones. But say that were to change and we somehow convinced Marriott to bulldoze the Iberville housing projects and turn it into a retirement community or something, would that not be a good idea? While it might not be something to base our economy on, it would at least be a shot in the arm and another way to revitalize and bring investment downtown. It might not bring high paying jobs but it’d still bring jobs and outside money into New Orleans. I don’t know, it just seems like a silly market to ignore, especially considering some people might really enjoy retiring here.

9 Comments so far

  1. Craig (unregistered) on August 10th, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

    I get what you’re driving at, since I AM a boomer and, essentially, I’m retired. At least from Career #1 (which I quit. No gold watch for me). I chose to move here, in part, for some of the very reasons you mention.

    What hurts New Orleans as a retirement Mecca and will continue to hurt it is the cost of housing. This was an issue even before Katrina. Of course, the Very Rich can retire anywhere they please. But here’s how it works for so many….

    You work most of your life and live in your house that you paid, say, $85K for back when the kids were little. Now the kids are up and gone and you want a smaller place when you retire. You can unload the (paid-for) big house for, say, $300K, pay cash for the retirement joint and add the rest (tax free!) to your 401k.

    In “retirement” areas, that new place is going to cost you $100K or $150K and include free golf and a whole lot of other crap you want. And you’ll be in a community of folks basically your own age and economic strata. In New Orleans, it’s going to get you about 2/3 or half a house in a reasonably safe area. AND you still gotta drive to and pay for golf AND it could be anyone living next door — from Bradley Fratboy to Tyrone Crackdealer to Jane Hasdogswhobarkallthefuckingtime.

    I agree with what you’re saying in a lot of ways. But I don’t know how salable it is.

  2. Mark Folse (unregistered) on August 11th, 2007 @ 8:02 am

    Healthcare. If we don’t fix thatk, it would never work.

    I agree with the general idea. On a trip to DC with my wife a few years ago, we were walking around Dupont Circle where we were staying and I started thinking about what it would be like to retire to an urban area with a good nightlife, restaurants, culture, etc.

  3. Laurie (unregistered) on August 11th, 2007 @ 11:19 am

    Summers in New Orleans are no place for the elderly. The heat and humidity are killers. My grandmother needs to get up and move her legs so she doesn’t continue to decline healthwise, but walking half a block outside is torture for her for a major part of the year. She gets so lightheaded, dizzy, and overwhelmed. I can’t blame her – sometimes I feel the same way in the August heat! All I want to do is lie very very still in the direct path of an air conditioner. I just don’t think it’s a good environment for retirees unless they’re very young ones in relatively good health – something the majority of retirees are not exactly known for. As stated above, health care and housing are two other major obstacles. I’m all for finding ways to make New Orleans more attractive to sources of money other than tourism and kudos for thinking outside of the box! I just don’t think this solution is a very viable one.

    What we need to do is clean up the city, get rid of the corruption in government and seriously crack down on all of the crime, and as Jack pointed out, make sure our infrastructure is properly maintained. Then, jobs and people will come. Oh, wait, where will we get the money to do all of that without the jobs and people coming first? Sadly, it’s all a terrible Catch-22. I know – maybe the city can pool its money and buy lottery tickets every week!

  4. Leigh (unregistered) on August 12th, 2007 @ 8:56 am

    I like your idea. I think it could work for retirees in transitions. Those who are 50 or 60 to mid-70s. After that, they are going to want to be closer to families, have premium health care and better public transportation options.

    The key with this and all good ideas, is Development. This has been seen as an evil word at times in Nola and on this board. Development is a necessary part of growth. If we want to become a world class city, then we need to have planned developments, tearing down some hodge-podge areas to build functional commmunities that people can live in. This does not mean we have to live in the Canned Suburban Dream of South Florida Development. But, we have to stop being scared of Big Business, and let some Development occur. Atlanta is a Southern city that has development. We have to modernize some or we die.

  5. Leigh (unregistered) on August 12th, 2007 @ 9:38 am

    Okay – more thoughts. One of the reasons people move to Florida is tax incentives. Military personnel with a 10% disability rating get a large break on homestead taxes. There are also no state taxes in Florida. The key to making Louisiana affordable is also tax incentives. We could make homestead exemptions of up to 5000 a year for every one over 55. Yes, the city and/or state could lose some revenue. But, the principles of economic consumption suggest the opposite. Baby boomers have always been consumers. With less money paid to taxes, that yields more money for entertainment and consumables, thus resulting in more sales tax revenue.

    Baby boomers are not your typical aging population. After working for many years, they tend to be seeking fulfillment. Intellectual stimulation is available in NOLA. Offer tax credits for college classes. Open enrollment for 55+. Learn how to make you own glass sculptures in the Quarter (which is a really cool course).

    And there are jobs. We have such a labor shortage here. Last December I was in Disney in Florida and noticed a phenomenal change in the face of their workers. Disney now has lots and lots of older workers on staff. Why? Because retirees will work part time. If they can make a little extra cash in a way that is fun, they can leave their retirement eggs on hold – or supplement their pensions. Working teenage type jobs (coffee shops, museums, restaraunts, etc) can be a huge draw. Again, some extra tax incentives might perocolate the pot. We need workers and this might help us all.

    Once all these political changes start, the face of health care will change on its own. Offer a few incentives and the private industry will come. Health care companies follow their revenues. In South Florida, the number of health care companies is huge and EXPANDING. We need a piece of this pie.

    We have to be not afraid of change. We are in a Reconstruction Period and we have to be willing to come out on the other side.

  6. Dan F (unregistered) on August 12th, 2007 @ 11:05 am

    This idea has been banded about for a little while now. I think it could work but the issues that confront us daily (crime, taxes, housing, healthcare) will have to be corrected before it could really make a difference.

    I look at those as the foundation of a city/society. Until we correct or at least get a handle on these issues, we cannot move forward I’m afraid. With our leaders so disconnected, by the time we correct them the boomers will have already settled somewhere or not even be around I’m afraid.

  7. termite. (unregistered) on August 12th, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    this idea was first (as i remember) mentioned by Donald Trumps son last year. Then others joined in.
    I think this sort of development is an excellent idea. We have nothing like this in the city. I know many elderly would love the opportunity to live in such a facility. like my mom.

    *love your comments leigh. ;)

  8. Heather (unregistered) on August 13th, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

    I like the idea because it is a fresh idea. But old people get sick and ill and we don’t even have enough health institutions to handle the people we have now.

    Plus, a lot of old people with money like to live comfortabley. This isn’t a very comfortable city.

  9. Peris (unregistered) on August 19th, 2007 @ 8:19 pm

    I think you have something there. But the age of the stereotypical retiree is over. Don’t think elderly, either–it’s been redefined. The Boomer will be dragged into “elderly” kicking and screaming. Also, broaden the scope to include unretired empty-nesters.

    I am 46, and in a few short years will be in the latter category. I have no intention of retiring any time soon, if ever. My wife and I have pretty mobile jobs, and we are giving serious thought to making the move to that place of yours, New Orleans. Nowhere I have visited have I ever felt as comfortable and at home. This, despite all of the negative news emanating lately.

    Notwithstanding all the corruption and criminal mayhem (It’s a wash–we’re in Chicago), the health care situation is a major deterrent. This was reinforced by a bicycle accident I was in last month. Minutes later, the EMT was asking me which of the three nearby emergency rooms I wanted to be rushed to. Afterwards, I tried to imagine how it would have gone had I been biking in New Orleans Parish.

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