Jesse and Evelyn Mittleman knew something about the Saratoga Springs area before they picked up and moved here in May from Washington state.
But the draw wasn’t the historic race track, downtown shopping district or any of the other amenities that community leaders hope bring people to the area.
Their reason for packing up from a community they loved and coming back East is more easily explained — their son and daughter-in-law live in Loudonville.
“We just looked at a map and looked a certain radius from his house,” said Jesse Mittleman, 93. “It was just sort of an arbitrary move.”
If age cohort projections hold true, there might be more people like the Mittlemans in Saratoga County’s future — people who move into the area for their golden years, often to be closer to family and perhaps because they lived in New York state before.
“We lived either in New York or on Long Island most of our lives before moving here,” Jesse Mittleman explained. He grew up on Long Island, his wife in the Bronx.
The couple moved to Prestwick Chase in Greenfield, which offers independent living apartments with amenities including a dining hall, social activities and housekeeping. About a third of the 30 residents who moved in during the past year came from out of state, said marketing director Kathy Bowen.
Another third came from outside Saratoga County but within the state, and a third moved from homes within Saratoga County.
Family is the main draw to move to the area, Bowen said. “A majority of people are coming from out of the area to be close to their children.”
The oldest of the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are turning 65 now.
Rocky Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, said “We have a very large cohort presently between 45 and 65 years old.” The CDRPC develops age cohort projections for the region. “Over the next 20 years you’re going to see an increase in the age cohort over 65.”
But in Saratoga County, the rate of senior citizens is growing faster than it is in Albany or Schenectady counties, and is projected to outpace both of those counties by 2020 and stay that way through 2050, the final decade of the projections.
In 1990, Saratoga County had a much smaller percentage of senior citizens than other counties in the Capital Region. Just 10.3 percent of the county’s population was 65 and older. Schenectady County had 16.5 percent of its population in that age range and Albany County had 14.7 percent.
Twenty years later in 2010, 13.6 percent of Saratoga’s population was 65 and over; 14.9 percent of Albany’s and 13.9 percent of Schenectady’s.
By 2020, Saratoga County’s senior population is projected to increase to 18.5 percent, while Schenectady County’s rises to 17.4 percent and Albany’s goes up to 17.3 percent.
For the next three decades, the CDRPC projects Saratoga County’s senior population could be 2 percent to 4 percent higher than Albany’s and Schenectady’s — up to 24.2 percent of the entire Saratoga County population in 2040.
The numbers are only projections, not predictions, Ferraro cautioned.
Saratoga County may be richer in seniors than the rest of the area in part because of the influx of 30- and 40-somethings who moved to the county in the 1980s and ’90s as the suburban areas were built up, Ferraro said. Most commuted to work in Albany or Schenectady but made Saratoga County their home. Many have stayed here.
Only a few of the county’s senior citizens live in nursing homes — 781, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The rest live independently in single-family homes, townhouses, apartments or with family.
“Aging in place” rather than moving to nursing homes will continue to be a goal for many senior citizens, but that won’t always mean staying in the home where they lived in middle age.
“Some will continue enjoying a single-family home on a larger lot, but many of the others are looking to downsize,” Ferraro said.
To meet the projected population growth, more homes will need to be built and community planners will need to pay more attention to things like public transportation and availability of medical care.
“Traditionally the suburban communities are not as well-prepared,” Ferraro said. They typically have segregated land uses — for example, housing may be far away from stores and medical offices, making it difficult for seniors who don’t drive to get there.
Some local developers are working to meet the current and future demand for senior citizen apartments and condominiums as well as assisted living communities.
Senior housing developments are proposed or have been recently built in Wilton, Halfmoon, Moreau, Clifton Park and Ballston, said Mike Valentine, Saratoga County’s senior planner, who noted that construction has slowed.
“We saw more of them, a spurt of them, probably eight to 10 years ago.”
Besides the market — what seniors want — financing plays a role in the development of senior housing.
Financing for all types of housing was more scarce during the recession than before. Now, lenders are more likely to finance a senior apartment complex than an owner-occupied development for older adults, because the apartment complex seems a surer bet for generating income.
“Independent senior housing is a great market. Most lenders really, really like it,” said Dave Osher with the Buck Group, which has proposed building senior apartments in Ballston and Moreau as part of larger housing developments. “I would term it one of the most easy markets that there is.”
The group had a market study done on both areas, Osher said, and liked what it saw. “It’s compelling,” he said of the study’s results. “There a real good reason to be building product in Saratoga County.”
Once the senior apartment complexes are built, they get tenants quickly, said Christopher Harland, northeast regional manager of Hilco Real Estate Appraisal in East Greenbush.
“Most of these are leased up prior to construction,” said Harland, whose firm does real estate appraisals for senior housing throughout the Capital Region. And they maintain close to 100 percent occupancy after that.
“My feeling is that the demand for this type of housing has increased significantly throughout the entire Capital District,” he said. “Certainly there’s been a lot more interest by developers in constructing these.”
And the Saratoga Springs area is a destination for a lot of people, including seniors, for its high quality of living, Harland said.
Jesse Mittleman rates the area as being easy to get to shopping centers and medical care, something that is attractive to seniors when they choose a home.
“It’s a convenient place to live,” he said.