Study: Baby Boomers Living in Cities Are More Socially Active

Photo: Design for Health/Flickr

As Baby Boomers age, cities seems to be better places for them to get the social interaction they seek, according to a new study published in the Journal of Transport Geography.

Using special formulas meant to eliminate the “self-selection bias,” researchers from MIT compared the travel habits of Boomers who live in suburban and urban parts of Boston — controlling for factors like income, bike ownership, health, and employment status. They found, unsurprisingly, the urbanites made more total trips than their suburban counterparts, even though they car commute less.

Every week, the urban boomers made 1.34 more recreational trips, 0.77 more social trips and 4.53 more utilitarian trips than suburban boomers with similar demographic characteristics.

The disparity in social trips, in particular, stuck out to researchers, who said that “baby boomers’ preference for social activities tends to be mismatched to their environment.”

“Suburban boomers want more social opportunities than their settings enable,” they wrote.

The research also indicates Baby Boomers would generally be more active and get out of the house more if they transferred from a suburban location to an urban one. But the authors note that given Boomers’ preference for aging in place, that may be unlikely to take place at a very large scale.

Travel data was obtained through a mail survey to randomly selected addresses. Respondents included 1,422 suburban Boston residents and 745 urbanites in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline.

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