Ageing in Inner Cities The Residential Dilemmas of the Baby Boomer Generation

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Catherine Bonvalet
Jim Ogg

Abstract

Although residential mobility decreases with age, rates rise around the age of retirement, especially for people living in cities. The post-war birth cohort of 1945–1954 differs in many respects from previous generations, and these differences are currently influencing residential choices made around the age of retirement. Using data from 60 semi-structured interviews in four areas of London and Paris that have undergone gentrification, this paper examines the residential trajectories and choices facing members of the 1945–1954 birth cohort. The analysis reveals three types of residential trajectories – ’pioneers of gentrification’, ’city movers’ and ’local inhabitants’. These trajectories are intertwined with contextual factors such as life course events, family situation, housing market conditions, and the institutions of Britain and France. The analysis shows that pioneers of gentrification have more opportunities for choice in future residential locations, and are tending to adopt complex residential patterns that often involve a combination of extended stays throughout the year in different locations. Whilst they still favour a city life, their current neighbourhood location is not a priority in any future residential choice. City movers have lived in diverse locations over the life course and although they too express a continued preference for the city, ties to the local neighbourhood remain relatively weak. Among the ’local’ inhabitants, differentiation from the gentrifers is strong, and attachment to the local neighbourhood depends upon the context of the urban setting. The British and French contexts of housing policy and markets play an important role in determining residential mobility. Collectively, the analysis shows that there is little ’stability’ in the choices for current cohorts of people in cities approaching retirement, with few interviewees having formed a definitive plan for a future residential location.

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