What’s the difference between
the baby boomer generation
of empty nesters and retirees,
and previous generations?
According to Calvin Buss,
president of Buss Marketing and a boomer himself,
today’s empty nesters, if they retire at all,
want to “do things” instead of retiring “to die.”
And that new view of aging has also changed
their approach to downsizing, says Buss, who
has marketed and sold large condo projects in
Calgary for almost three decades.
Buss, now leading sales on the seven-storey,
64-unit luxury AVLI on Atlantic project in
Inglewood, says the shift has been all about
lifestyle – a shift he has made himself.
“We (boomers) lived in the suburbs where it
was about bricks and mortar. You had a garage,
a backyard. You drove home from work, parked
the car in the garage, put the kids to bed and
didn’t come out of the house until the next
morning,” he said. “Your lifestyle was in the
house and it was a repetitive cycle.”
Four years ago, Buss and his wife moved
from an acreage to a condo by the Bow River.
The couple now walks or bikes six kilometres
four times a week along river and city pathways,
stopping wherever they like in the city’s downtown
Beverly Sandalack, professor and associate
dean (academic) landscape and planning
in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of
Environmental Design, says Buss’s move is
in step with most of today’s empty nesters or
“This generation of downsizers likely grew
up in what is now the middle ring of the city –
those suburbs constructed between the 1950s
and 1970s that were once on the emerging edge
of the city,” she said.
That generation of Calgarians then moved
further out to raise families, she says, a trend
that played out in many North American cities.
“It makes sense (that now) they would want
to move inward to either the kind of neighbourhood
they grew up in – now almost inner city
– or experience the urbanity, walkability and
amenities that the true inner city offers.”
Sandalack, co-director of the
University of Calgary’s Urban
Lab, which researches community
planning and urban development
issues, says as boomers look to
move closer to the core, there are
an increasing number of opportunities
in new neighbourhoods,
such as the East Village, or innercity
That includes those in that
middle ring, such as Killarney,
made more attractive by the City of
Calgary’s Main Streets strategy of
increased densification and urban
Because boomers grew up in
prosperous times and travelled
widely to places of urban vibrancy,
Sandalack says they seek luxury
homes in neighbourhoods displaying
She said the lesson for today’s
community planners is clear.
“If you build mixed-use, mixed
demographic neighbourhoods, you
don’t get abandonment of those
neighbourhoods when the kids
grow up,” said Sandalack.
Buss says in his experience,
downsizing criteria for past generations
were a modest-sized and
reasonably priced home, where the
prime location qualifications were
proximity to healthcare and transit.
Today’s downsizers, he says,
make money selling their suburban
homes and shed square footage
– but that doesn’t mean they’ll
settle for “small” spaces or reduced
“They generally are looking at
downsizing to 1,400 square feet and
are not looking at price, so much as
value for the dollar,” he said.
They also want luxury interiors.
Buss cites boomer purchasers
in other projects who spent $1.5
million on the unit and another
$500,000 on upgrades and
“This is probably the last time
for furnishing a nest, so they
stretch their wings,” he said.
Construction on the
$36-million AVLI on Atlantic project
just launched and 70 per cent
of the units – ranging in price from
$350,000 to $1.5 million – have
already sold to a mixture of downsizers
and young professionals who
want to be closer to downtown.
The condos have custom designed
interiors, including gourmet
kitchens and spa bathrooms.
Condo fees will be low at 38 cents
per square foot, Buss says, because
there are not a lot of expensive
communal areas, which would be
wasted on boomer purchasers who
are not there much of the time.
“They’ve cut the grass –
they’re done with that,” he said.
“They want to travel, go golfing or biking instead.”