This spring, campers will gather at John Knox Ranch in Wimberley from May 26-28 for a weekend of classic camp activities, including archery, canoeing, arts and crafts, and happy hour.
The camp, known as Camp Meraki, is targeted at “seasoned” adults age 60 and older, said Amy Temperley, owner of Aging Is Cool, the organization coordinating the camp. Camp Meraki is part of a trend in retirement that is being driven by improved health care—people are living longer, healthier lives because of medical advances—and economic factors.
“There’s a population of people who are going to retire in their 60s and live into their 90s,” Temperley said. “They have to find something to do. That’s a lot of time.”
Between 2000 and 2010, the overall population in the Austin metropolitan area—including Hays County—grew by nearly 40 percent, but the segment of its age 55-plus population grew by 80 percent during that same time period, said Teresa Sansone Ferguson, executive director of AustinUP, a nonprofit organization that advocates for and educates the public about issues affecting senior citizens in Central Texas.
In 2010, the Austin area topped the nation for the fastest-growing population between ages 55-64, and it tallied the second fastest-growing population in the country for people age 65 or older, she said.
“Already about 30 percent of our [Austin] residents are over age 55,” she said. “Soon, we will have more older adults than children
in Central Texas.”
A new single-family community in San Marcos promises to provide thousands of homes for the 55-and-older demographic. But officials say cities and businesses will have to rethink how they serve senior citizens in light of the evolving wants and needs of seniors.
Senior housing options expand
When Kissing Tree, a new housing community in San Marcos targeted for those age 55 and older, is built out, it will include 3,200 homes priced from the mid-$200,000s to the low $500,000s. Edjuan Bailey, vice president of the property’s developer, Brookfield Residential, said he expects residents to begin moving in by the fall or winter.
The neighborhood’s target demographic knows what it wants, he said.
When the neighborhood broke ground last year, there were 17 floorplans and five architectural styles of homes available to residents—a total of 85 options. Now there are 18 floor plans, five architectural styles and two series for each floor plan—a total of 180 options.
“These guys want what they want; they can afford it; they’ll pay for what makes them happy, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Bailey said. “We are certainly going down the customization, more options path because that is what the customers are telling us. It’s being borne out in that they are choosing so many different floor plans to buy.”
Although Kissing Tree is addressing a need in Central Texas, officials and businesses report a need for more affordable housing options targeted at seniors.
Buda’s Huntington apartments, a tax-credit 55-and-older community—meaning residents’ annual incomes cannot exceed a certain amount—has a one- to two-year waiting list for units that cost less than $974 per month, Assistant Manager Edith Castillo said.
“You’ve seen regular apartments popping up everywhere, but none of them are for seniors,” Castillo said. “If I had a million dollars, I would buy land and make apartments for seniors.”
Seniors in the workforce
Advances in medicine have increased life expectancy, but such advances have complicated some aspects of aging, such as retirement, Temperley said.
“Our retirement dollars don’t go as far,” she said. “Once upon a time you needed 20 years in the bank [at retirement]. Now you need 30 years. A lot of adults are picking up supplementary income.”
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between February 2009 and February 2017, the number of U.S. citizens age 65 or older who were participating in the workforce—meaning they were either employed or seeking work—increased more than 50 percent from 5.56 million to 8.4 million.
The percentage of U.S. citizens age 65 or older still in the workforce has been rising steadily since the early ’90s, BLS Regional Economist Cheryl Abbot said.
“People are doing better for longer now,” Abbot said. “Some individuals are actually retiring from one job and recreating themselves in a new job.”
Despite a booming job market, seniors in Central Texas still face challenges, Temperley said. Reliable transportation service is an area she said could be improved throughout the region. Additionally, employers must change their attitudes and preconceptions regarding older workers.
“So often we make the decision when they walk through the door because they’ve got grey hair that, ‘This isn’t what I’m looking for,’ but they bring so much to the table, and they’re such great mentors,” she said.
On April 18, Buda City Council appointed nine members to a new task force on aging that will identify challenges facing the city’s senior population and recommend ways to address those issues to council.
Between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of the city’s population older than age 65 increased from 6.4 percent to
“This is an underserved demographic in our community,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said. “We’re trying to look at ways, something as serious as affordable housing and transportation, to quality-of-life issues. What do we do with our parks and library to give that demographic a chance to be involved in our community?”
Kissing Tree’s effect on San Marcos may extend to San Marcos CISD.
Under Texas’ complex school finance formula, school districts are funded through a combination of local property taxes and state funding based on the district’s enrollment. If property tax revenue growth far outpaces a district’s enrollment growth, the district is required to send money back to the state to be redistributed to other districts. This stipulation, known as the “Robin Hood” plan, has been in place since 1993.
Because residents in Kissing Tree’s 3,200 homes will likely not contribute many students to the district, administrators see potential that the district, which so far has not had to return money to the state, could begin sending some of its property tax collections back for redistribution. The district’s enrollment has been growing by about 200-250 students per year in recent years.
“If our student base doesn’t grow, we’re going to end up sending that money back to the state,” Assistant Superintendent Karen Griffith said.