When I started watching the baby boomer scene, I predicted that the hot spots for retirees would be university towns, where you can find a good espresso, a second-run movie house and probably a good book store. But much has changed in the last few years; you can get a good coffee almost everywhere, the second-run movie houses have closed and book stores? Good luck with that. University towns are often expensive, too.

People often couldn’t move, either. For the last decade since the Great Recession, a lot of people have been trapped in their houses because they were under water with their mortgages when home values plummeted. But according to the Wall Street Journal, looking at the latest census, things have turned around as the millennials start looking to the suburbs to raise families. House prices have risen and boomers are on the move.

The figures are a fresh sign that the nation’s 74 million baby boomers — those born between 1946 to 1964 — have dug out from the 2007-09 recession that locked many of them in place when home and stock values plummeted. They have fueled double-digit population growth in some old staples for retirees, such as Naples, Fla., and other places far from the Sunbelt, including Jackson, Wyo., and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Coeur d’Alene? Never heard of it, or many of the other smaller cities and towns that are drawing crowds like Adams County, Pennsylvania.

people on move All sorts of people are on the move. (Photo: Census data via Wall Street Journal)

Millennials are on the move, too

Meanwhile, the Journal notes that the millennials are moving to the suburbs, but they prefer ones that are more "surban," a terrible portmanteau of suburb and urban coined by real estate consultant John Burns. He defines it as "A suburban area that has the feel of urban, with walkability to great retail from a house or apartment." Burns explains:

Mature suburban areas took note of urban revitalization. City leaders redeveloped their downtowns or zoned an area for a vibrant mix of retail, housing, and sometimes jobs. Urban planners call these areas "mixed use," but surban better describes the mix of urban and suburban living.

The trend toward "surban" living will be a good thing for baby boomers, too; many are used to the suburbs where they live, but might now have options to move into apartments near transit and services as the sea of parking lots turn into walkable communities, which is happening all over the United States.

So many influences

old buildings in pittsburgh Great old buildings in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Of course, where one choses to retire depends on a lot of things. My wife decided she wanted to be 10 feet from the kids so I duplexed my house, rented half to them and we're staying put. On the other hand, I would rather spend my winters in Portugal.

AARP looked at all the recommendations and found that if you want to be happy, go to Sarasota. If you want cheap housing but great health care, go to Pittsburgh. If you want to have fun, go to a college town, although the Milken institute recommended Provo Utah, home of Brigham Young University, which won’t have much of a bar scene. Florida is still huge, but "the Milken Institute’s chairman, Paul Irving, told CNBC he wanted to steer clear of promoting retirement destinations in a sunny, gated community in Florida, calling the concept 'a relic'."

It may be a relic, but it's a popular one, with Cape Coral, Florida still among the most popular spots. But between small towns, revitalizing Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, and yes, “surban” developments, there are more and more options to consider.

cape coral A nice truck in front of the Waffle House in Cape Coral, Florida. (Photo: Lloyd Alter, 2013)

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.

Boomers are redefining the retirement hotspot
Boomers are heading to hot spots like Coeur d'Alene, Idaho — and they aren't the only ones moving. Millennials are heading to the suburbs.