The Katy area’s baby boomer population is entering its third act, causing the area’s share of residents age 65 and older to rise. From 2011 to 2015, the age group grew by 52.6 percent in the city proper and by about 37 percent in Greater Katy, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Seeing this trend, the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s Leadership Task Force issued a report last year measuring the city’s livability for seniors. The KAEDC found the economic effect of affluent seniors, many of whom move to the Katy area to be closer to family, should incentivize city leaders to adapt to baby boomer needs.

Can Katy area handle rising numbers of seniors? EDC, area providers say yes but work needed“Retirees, especially those who have migrated to Katy from another area, have a higher average household income than existing households and, thus, have more money to spend,” the report said.

The McKinsey Global Institute, the think tank arm of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, found seniors are likely to spend more on things, such as pets, entertainment, vacations and charitable giving. The housing market will see activity and baby boomer leisure spending is outpacing that of younger generations.

The elderly also account for an increasing share of the labor force. In 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission reported that from 2005 to 2015 the rate of workers aged 65-74 grew by 11 percent and by 12.5 percent for workers aged 75 and older.

This employment bracket, combined with seniors’ spending power, makes up what Oxford Economics coined as the “longevity economy.”

“The longevity economy is not just about prolonging old age,” the KAEDC report said. “It’s about the 30 years added to middle age, when workers are most creative and productive.”

While the report found Katy suitable for older residents, it also saw challenges as they “age in place,” including housing and mobility. Harris and Fort Bend counties have transit services but they are limited by jurisdiction.

“In some cases, as a senior resident who is transportation- dependent, lives in one county and can’t access his or her physician, therapist or others in an adjoining county,” said Kathie Gerritzen, founder of the Katy Area Ride Service. “It’s a serious transportation challenge for our loved ones.”

Can Katy area handle rising numbers of seniors? EDC, area providers say yes but work neededNo place like home

Seniors are attracted to the Katy area for its relative affordability, proximity to urban and suburban amenities, and because many want to be near their families, said Christi Borden, a Realtor with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene in Katy and a board member of the Houston Association of Realtors.

“It’s a very specific market, but it’s pretty robust,” she said of the age-restricted housing market in the Katy area. “If you’re looking to lease, there’s over 220 choices in the Katy area.”

However, the KAEDC found Katy area seniors increasingly prefer to live in their own home or with family. And builders are taking notice.

Brent Houser, vice president of operations for Houston-area builder Caldwell Companies, said demographic research of the Katy area market in recent years shows customers downsizing but retaining amenities.

“What we found at this life stage, these people have accumulated a lot of things and don’t necessarily want to get rid of them,” he said. “Because what we found is at this life stage, the kids are gone—they can really focus on themselves.”

Caldwell Homes is looking for places in Katy to bring in its line of luxury patio homes with fewer, albeit larger rooms and increased storage space.

Can Katy area handle rising numbers of seniors? EDC, area providers say yes but work neededLennar launched its multigenerational home line called NextGen in 2012, which features separate apartment-type quarters within the main single-family home. Michael Reamer, director of sales for Lennar, said the option is picking up steam in part because customers find it cheaper than maintaining two homes, paying for assisted-living or long-term care for their elderly parents.

“The cost of living in Houston has increased over the last five years,” Reamer said. “To a certain extent, it’s tied to lack of affordable housing.”

For Toll Brothers, a popular option for seniors and their families, is adding on rooms for older parents. Houston division President David Assid said another factor is buyers coming to the area from other cultures where multigenerational living is common.

“There’s certain buyers for whom the grandparents have an active role in taking care of the children,” Assid said.

Assid said depending on the configuration of an add-on, it can range up to $80,000. By comparison, the average annual cost of a nursing home in Texas in 2017 exceeds $60,000, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Patchwork of services

For the roughly 6.4 percent of Katy-area seniors who earned below the poverty level, as of 2015 census estimates, area providers said some services are still needed.

Manuela Arroyos, CEO of Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels, said the nonprofit serves between 110 and 125 people each day between its Katy and Fulshear congregate centers as well as home deliveries.

“It helps the seniors offset their cost when they’re looking at buying their prescriptions,” she said.

For those looking to remain in their own homes, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program offers grants to low-income households for energy system work, which was performed for 47 Katy homes in 2016, according to department Chief of External Affairs Michael Lyttle.

Fort Bend Corps and Katy Home Savers also offer volunteer home repair for the elderly in need. Staff at the Fussell Senior Citizen Center inform visitors about resources for insurance and long-term care as well as the center is under the city’s department of social services.

“We can help people understand Social Security,” center Director Peggy Dimmick said.

Can Katy area handle rising numbers of seniors? EDC, area providers say yes but work neededGetting out and about

Katy seniors by and large want to remain active, Dimmick said. Harris County Precinct 3 opened a special exercise area for seniors at Katy’s Mary Jo Peckham Park in 2015, and the Oak Park Resort Lifestyle Retirement Community, which opened this year, boasts a variety of social clubs and activities for residents.

The city’s Fussell senior center is a hub of socialization, fitness, crafting and other activities for the nearly 750 people throughout the area who use it regularly, she said.

“It gives them something they can participate in,” activity coordinator Pat Baker said.

However, Dimmick said if a senior has to travel more than 10 to 12 miles for a social activity, he or she may prefer to stay home.

For seniors who cannot drive themselves, the nonprofit Katy KARS started driving seniors in 2015 to doctor appointments, to go shopping and on other trips. Gerritzen said she is always in need of drivers.

“We’re seeing more people calling for rides in Cinco Ranch, near [Katy] Flewellen Road near Tompkins High School," she said.

Only 2.1 percent of Katy area households—2,169—lacked a vehicle in 2015, according to the U.S. census. But roughly 42.7 percent of those homes had a householder aged 65 and older.

“Seniors deteriorate if they can’t get out and about,” she said. “Being in the community like I have been—very involved—you can’t just ignore those people.”