CHARLOTTE, N.C. – You’ve probably heard the term “halfback” in football – an offensive player who lines the backfield and carries the ball on run plays. An emerging housing trend among seniors has given “halfback” a new meaning.

Senior housing insiders use the term to describe retirees who moved to Florida from northern states, then relocated halfway back to the Carolinas because they found Florida’s weather too hot or the state too crowded, industry figures say.

“North Carolina is fifth in the country in getting other states’ retirees,” says Dan Owens, senior housing consultant for builders and towns, Carolina’s Active Retirement Association.

Florida has always been the “800-pound gorilla” of retirement destinations, but that’s changing now. North and South Carolina combined now receive more relocating retirees than Florida, Owens said.

That’s just one difference between today’s aging baby boomer and yesterday’s seniors, known as the G.I. Generation. Don’t bother looking for similarities in the two when it comes to retirement housing.

The size of the baby boomer generation — roughly 78 million people born from 1946-64 — puts this generation’s habits on everyone’s radar. And when it comes to boomers’ retirement housing choices, “Everything old is new again,” as the saying goes.

Today’s seniors don’t want to discuss “aging” or “retirement” in those terms and home builders have caught on – creating a burgeoning market for active adult communities that offer seniors physical activities, a sense of community and homes that will accommodate them as they age in more subtle ways than the intrusive steel railings and chair lifts built into yesterday’s senior homes.

“We do these things naturally and we don’t talk about them,” said Dave Schreiner, a demographics expert with Pulte Homes, referring to home design features that make it easier for seniors to move around. Pulte Homes has a separate brand for its active adult communities known as Del Webb.

Del Webb’s adult community 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C., called Sun City Carolina Lakes, has generated a lot of buzz. The community, located in Indian Land, S.C., opened March 18 and anticipates a total of 3,300 homes that range in size between 1,103 and 2,597 square feet and are priced at $167,000-$340,000.

Del Webb has a chain of active adult communities for the 55-and-older group, and each typically features a fitness center and golf course, and offers residents various clubs and classes ranging from ceramics to computers to personal investing, according to a Web site description.

Baby boomers now entering their retirement years are the healthiest and wealthiest group to ever hit this life stage, though Schreiner says these seniors will place heavy emphasis on affordability when making retirement housing decisions. “People are moving in vast numbers to the Carolinas because of affordable homes,” he said, and seniors are among them.

Owens expects a fight among Southern cities and towns to attract these retiring boomers. He said that many regions will start to see boomers as an economic development tool and start building more communities with the idea of attracting them there.

And what town wouldn’t want boomers as residents? “They are good residents with money to spend,” Owens said.

The senior housing consultant also pointed out boomers’ interest in college towns as a driving trend for housing. Many boomers, he said, enjoy the interaction with students and spectator sports that a college town provides and the universities are happy to keep generous seniors close by.

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