Retirees flocking to region
The Reno area seemed an ideal place for
building an upscale retirement community
and a year after opening, Promenade on
the River is at 60 percent occupancy and its
president expects to have all 84 of the villa
apartments filled by next summer.
The apartments range from $1,500 to
$4,000 a month, utilities included. The
three-story facility offers gourmet meals,
24-hour security, an activities director,
rooftop pool, spa, fitness center and art
Who’s moving in?
“It’s a very interesting phenomenon,”
says Phil Shapiro, Promenade president.
“Three-quarters of our residents are from
out of the county, and most of them are
from out of the state.”
Two-thirds of the Promenade residents
who migrated to Nevada came from
California, Shapiro says. They’re taking
advantage of the lower cost of living in the
Silver State, plus the cultural amenities
performing arts, galleries, cinema complex,
library and university all within a mile
of the facility across the river from downtown
in old southwest Reno’s Newlands
They’re also spending money.
“When seniors come into the market, they have, on average,
one of the highest discretionary incomes of any population
cohort,” says Shapiro, who doubles as a consultant for
senior-living facilities around the West Coast.
“They buy a lot of house-care-related supplies, like pharmaceuticals
and toiletries. There is a big trend for seniors
buying computer equipment.”
Empty-nesters and older retirees are flocking to the Reno
area, swelling a growing population of seniors who are
wielding an impact on the area’s economy.
The exact number of older equity migrants and amenity
migrants people generally age 55 and older who sell
homes in higher-priced markets elsewhere to get more bang
for the buck, and who are drawn by northern Nevada’s
lifestyle attractions has yet to be determined. But the
sheer number of retirement-age residents is growing in
Washoe County at a faster rate than the population as a
The overall growth in the number of retirees in Washoe
County is outpacing that of overall population growth, and
is expected to continue doing so.
Population statistics compiled by Nevada State
Demographer Jeff Hardcastle, based on the 2000 U.S.
Census plus a formula for estimates and projections in the
future, show that the age 65-plus category slightly outpaced
overall population growth in Washoe County from 1991 to
2000. In 2000, the 35,544 residents age 65 and over
accounted for 10.4 percent of the county’s 341,935 residents.
But in 2001, the 65-plus category grew 7.3 percent compared
to the county’s overall increase of 3.3 percent. In 2002,
the rate for 65-plus leveled off to 1.9 percent growth,
although still higher than the county’s overall increase of 1.3
Those of standard retirement age currently account for
10.9 percent (38,868) of Washoe’s 357,776 residents, and are
projected to comprise 12.2 percent (48,544) of the county’s
population in 2010, and 16.2 percent (72,515) in 2022
(when Washoe is projected to have 447,794 residents).
On a state level, 95 percent of Nevadan residents age 55-
plus come from elsewhere. That’s the finding of a 1997
report by the Senator Alan Bible Center for Applied
Research at the University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers
performed a telephone survey to gauge the migration in and
out of Nevada of the state’s age 55-plus population, in a
report for the state’s Division of Aging Services and the
Regional Transportation Commission.
About two-thirds of respondents owned their own
homes, slightly more than half had completed at least some
college, and about three-fifths were married. The majority
were classified as amenity migrants choosing to live in a
favorable climate conducive to a retirement lifestyle, and
with low taxes.
Lawrence Weiss, director of the Sanford Center for
Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno, divides the
migrant retirees into two categories: those healthy and active
and attracted by outdoor recreation, and those at an
advanced age who require assisted living or a more protected
living environment, but also enjoy gambling. Each category
is drawn by northern Nevada’s livability, and exhibit consumer
“The early retirees sell their houses for $500,000,
$600,000, $700,000 and come here and buy one for
$250,000 and get just as much if not more, plus no state
income tax. That’s the primary reason they move here.
Secondary is the lifestyle.We have only about 330,000 people
in our area, as opposed to several million. It’s easy to get
around town and there’s lots of scenic beauty.
“These healthy, younger retirees, in their 50s, 60s and
70s, are very active. They’re skiers, hikers. They belong to
health clubs. They come here for the lifestyle. They’re not
necessarily your Cadillac buyers but probably SUVs or RVs.
They patronize the arts scene, travel a lot.”
The older, less active retirees may be aging parents seeking
retirement communities and or medical aides,Weiss
says. “They’ve got resources here such as downtown gambling
and the entertainment that goes with it. People come
here, they love to gamble. You cannot ignore that.”
Toscana Active Adult Community, on Vicenza Drive in
northeast Sparks next to the D’Andrea Country Club has
filled about 200 of its 480 private houses since models were
completed in February 2001, says Mike Rau, Toscana vice
president for corporate marketing.
The gated community, which includes a 12,000-squarefoot
clubhouse, restricts residency to households with at least
one resident age 55 or over. Full occupancy is expected by
fall 2004 in the community of two- and three-bedroom
houses, which range from $161,000 to $280,000 from
$40,000 to $70,000 less than in an active adult community
in California Rau says.
About 55 percent of Toscano’s residents average age
63 are from California, and another 15 percent from elsewhere
outside Nevada, Rau says. They have spending power,
and are on the go, he says.
“Certainly they’re equity rich, coming from the Bay area
or Sacramento,” Rau says. “They have a tremendous amount
of impact on the retail economy. Because they’re equity rich,
they bring that equity into local Nevada banks. They’re not
opening check accounts for $1,000. They’re transferring
funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“They travel, ski, hike, bike, attend local arts events. They
eat out a little bit more. They do love to use the local casinos.
In terms of shopping, obviously they all have kids and
grandkids. They’re tremendous shoppers, sending gifts.We
have a post office across the street. The employees talk about
seeing so many people sending packages all the time.
“They certainly tend to buy newer cars. You don’t see old
junkers. And they tend to buy American cars, the Buicks,
Ben Scott, owner of a luxury-car business, Scott Motor
Co., on South Virginia Street, sees wealthy retirees moving
into northern Nevada as part of a long-term trend of people
with money moving to a place with no state income tax.
More retiree transplants in Reno simply reflects the area’s
overall population growth, Scott says.
“These guys moving from California with money are our
kind of customers,” he says. “We’ve all noticed that there are
a lot of wealthy people moving into the area. But Reno has
always had a high proportion of wealthy people. I can
remember in the ’50s, Reno was good Cadillac country
because there were so many upper-income people here.”
Sales of Cadillac Escalades and Ford Range Rovers
reflect their buyers’ active lifestyles, Scott says. They can be
younger entrepreneurs, entertainers or athletes living at Lake
Tahoe, he says, but they also can be older, recreation-minded
“When you sell a $50,000 to $70,000 car, typically the
guy is older, because he’s made a lot of money.”
A special demographic factor may point to continued inmigration
of retirees to Reno, Shapiro says.
A common denominator of residents at Promenade on
the River is that they have adult children living in the Reno
area who want their aging parents living closer, he says.
More than 70,000 households in Washoe County have at
least one member aged 45-59, Shapiro says. Assuming at
least two people live in those households, there probably are
some 140,000 people, most of whom have at least one parent
age 70 or older, he says.
Typically, these parents live far away, Shapiro says. But as
time goes on, an increasing number of these adult children
will want to have their parents move close by, he says.
“We’re a very frenzied society, and make up for things
with e-mail and voice mail, but it’s not the same as living
around the corner from your family.When health crises
occur, and you have to intervene on behalf of your parents to
change the housing, what do the kids do? The support network
really is making an about-face.”
Reno the “Biggest Little City” is especially attractive
for younger, active retirees and older ones, Shapiro says.
“It’s simplicity. Ease of living. You don’t have to skirt
through busy Chicago or San Francisco or New York. You
don’t need cabs to get around from our location.”
If San Francisco Bay area real estate were in a seller’s
market, even more retirees would be moving to northern
Nevada, says Rod Boyle, membership director of
ArrowCreek Gold Club, in the upscale ArrowCreek development
in the south Truckee Meadows.
“They would love to come here and enjoy the Nevada tax
break, and be 15 minutes from the airport or downtown, and
have friends and family come up to visit because it’s a tourist
town,” Boyle says. “The views are fantastic.”
But plenty of Bay transplants already have moved in,
Boyle says. About 75 percent of his club’s 230 members are
from out of state, and about half are retirees, he says.
“Some days I call us ‘ArrowCal or ‘ArrowBay.'”
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