NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/15/2005 7:25:12 PM ET 2005-03-16T00:25:12

You could call Paul and Pat Dravillas "renaissance retirees." For 43 years suburban Chicago was their home, but after the kids had grown and gone, Pat realized "I've always loved the city, and coming downtown."

So they moved into a new life, in the center of Chicago.

"It's been great," says Paul.

the Dravillas now crisscross the Windy City armed with seniors' bus passes.

"The city is their oyster," says Mark Muro, a senior policy analyst with the Brookings Institution. "They're the ones that can really enjoy the full range of nightlife and cultural offers."

State by stateDuring the next decade the number of Americans over the age of 50 — today an estimated 84 million — is expected to triple, leaving many urban areas with new, thriving populations of people in their golden years.

The projected growth of retiree populations in metropolitan areas in the next ten years?

  • Minneapolis: 94 percent
  • Austin, Texas: 92 percent
  • Atlanta: 80 percent
  • Denver: 78 percent

After retiring from academic careers in Virginia, Kent and Peggy Stewart, both 70, chose Austin, Texas, another university town.

"It means 50,000 students," says Kent. "Which impact a city delightfully."

Seniors are seeking convenience, close proximity to medical care and culture.

"Music in Austin is incredible," says Peggy. "We have everything from funk to opera."

But will this trend of urbane urbanites ever overtake the number of retirees seeking a beach and a golf course?

"It's not going to displace or replace migration to the Sunbelt, but for an increasing subgroup, this is an important choice," says Brookings' analyst Muro.

Over lunch in a Chicago restaurant, the Dravillas celebrate the choice they made.

"I think I told her a thousand times in the first month: 'If you don't like this, we can always move back,'" says Paul Dravillas. "Nothing's forever. And she'd keep giving me the same answer: 'I like it!' And I do too."

They are getting used to their retirement years and finding a new beginning — downtown.

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