Retirees may be next great economic market

DeWayne Bartels

By DeWayne Bartels


“Respect your elders” very soon could move beyond the notion of manners and include economics in the Greater Peoria Area. 

Aging baby-boomers could be a key element in the Greater Peoria Area’s future financial health, according to Ed Scharlau, vice-chairman of Busey Bank. Scharlau, while in Peoria last week, said this area needs to position itself as a mature market area.  

“In the past, youth was the hero. Now, age is in charge,” Scharlau said.


Scharlau said seniors, and those poised to be seniors by 2030, are an economic powerhouse locally.

“Today, they probably represent the second largest payroll in the Peoria area, after Caterpillar. They don’t become unemployed. They don’t require tax incentives to move here. They have the largest amount of disposable income of any age group,” Scharlau said.

“They buy homes and condos, eat in restaurants, buy items at retail stores, purchase tickets for sporting and cultural events, support our churches and other community efforts, don’t place a large demand on city services or schools and they don’t cause the police a problem.”

Scharlau said the Greater Peoria Area needs to start moving now toward a goal of being a recognized area for the mature individual by 2015.

“We are closer to a senior boom rather than a baby boom,” he said. “In 2006, boomers started turning 60 at the rate of 7,900 a day, or 330 every hour. Ten thousand boomers are retiring every day.”

Figures, he said, show by 2030 all baby boomers will have reached 65. The number of people who have reached 65 will double in the Greater Peoria Area by 2030 if those here now stay. Scharlau said right now, there are 50,742 people 65 or over in the Tri-County Area.   

Position thyself

“These people are starting to relocate, change lifestyles, starting a new life cycle, learning, working and playing,” Scharlau said.

“Retirement was invented mainly for people who wanted to get away from their work. Today, people want to live an active lifestyle.”

That opens up economic opportunities, Scharlau said.

“Think of the economic impact of retirees. If 20 retirees stay in Peoria rather than move, with an average income of $50,000, that is the same as a business with a $1 million payroll,” Scharlau said.

And, the economic opportunity retirees present are open a much longer time today.

Scharlau said 35 years ago, retirement accounted for only about 7 percent of an average American’s life. Today, retirement, on average, accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of a person’s life.

Already started

“We’ve spent a lifetime making old people. Now we don’t know what to do about them. They create opportunity for communities and business,” Scharlau said.

“The next major challenge is adding life to those years. Can the Greater Peoria Area be promoted as a mature market area?”

The answer to that question, according to some local retirees and the Central Illinois Agency on Aging, is yes.

In fact, they say, the Greater Peoria Area is already well on the way.

Janie Potts, 61, of Sunnyland, retired in 1995 from ICC and, after returning to work as a medical transcriptionist, retired the second time in 2006.

“I am now permanently retied,” she said.

Potts said she has stayed in the area because her mother, children and grandchildren are here. Tom Daab, 63, retired assistant Morton police chief, said his children and grandchildren being close is also part of the reason he has stayed. And, Earl Carter, of Peoria Heights, is in the same category. 

But, the three said that is only part of the reason they have stayed.

“Regardless of that, I think we’d stay here anyway. We have a lot of friends and social activities here,” Potts said. “There are good activities here. Peoria offers many things to do. The other thing going for Peoria is the medical community.”

Daab and Carter agreed.

“Now that I’m retired, I don’t know how I found the time to go to work,” Daab said. Daab, and his wife Peggy, who is still working, took up golf at the Peoria Park District Golf Learning Center. He has also taken up bowling.

“If you go out and seek it, you can find anything you want to do in the Peoria area,” Daab said.

Carter added, “There are lots of recreation opportunities, affordable restaurants and jobs here.”

Potts said she is finding more and more of her friends are deciding to call the Peoria area home after retirement.

“A lot are staying and a lot are becoming snowbirds. Some have their kids here. But, others have been here so long, this is home,” Potts said.

Liz Atchley, research assistant for the Central Illinois Agency on Aging, said her research shows the Greater Peoria Area is farther along in becoming a mature Market Area than most Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Areas.      

She said the Peoria area has addressed needs of the retiree and senior in the areas of transportation, housing, public safety, health and human services, recreation and emergency preparedness.

“Peoria is outstanding in all these areas. City staff is good about taking into account how seniors need to be served. There’s also a lot of cooperation between all agencies serving seniors throughout the area,” Atchley said.

“Peoria has been good about taking a comprehensive view of its population, not focusing just on youth or families. This is a community that attends to its seniors.”

As far as shortfalls in looking out for seniors, Atchley said there is nothing that stands out.

“There are no major deficiencies,” she said. “Peoria is unique in that.”

When this information was shared with Scharlau following his presentation, he said he is even more convinced the Greater Peoria Area could become a mature market area.

“It’s become socially acceptable to say, ‘I’m staying here.’ A lot of areas don’t give themselves enough credit for what they have. It sounds to me like this sample is positive. Peoria needs to keep moving forward.”