For many gray-haired Long Islanders, the golden years are more rock ‘n’ roll than rocking chairs.
Affluent and active senior citizens are buying Corvettes, filling concert halls, shopping for jewelry and booking vacations. Their numbers are growing, and businesses are taking notice.
Consider the data: 34% of Nassau County householders 65 plus and 28% of those in Suffolk report annual incomes of more than $100,000, according to 2017 Census data tabulated by the Center for an Urban Future, a Manhattan think tank.
To be sure, about 8% of Long Island’s 65-plus households fall below the federal poverty line, and several times that number are considered financially stressed.
But seniors lucky enough to have disposable income are spending it.
A look around the region’s music venues shows that many concertgoers are old enough to remember seeing the Beatles appear on “Ed Sullivan.” Laura Mogul, executive director of Port Washington’s Landmark on Main Street Inc. theater, estimates about one-third of her concertgoers are 65-plus.
“I look around and there’s a lot of gray hair,” she said of the 425-seat venue that books acts like pop diva Darlene Love, pianist George Winston and rocker Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen’s drummer).
Mogul uses print publications, direct mail (using demographic data to the neighborhood level) and digital platforms like email and Facebook to target prospective concertgoers. “We’re not specifically targeting” senior citizens, she said, though Landmark uses Facebook’s tools to zero in on fans of particular artists plus fans of similar artists (think Darlene Love and Tina Turner).
Many seniors are driving to those concerts in style. On Long Island, almost one in four buyers of new vehicles is 65 or over, according to Strategic Vision, a San Diego advisory firm.
Some new-car buyers want to feel the wind in their gray hair.
The median age for Long Island buyers of Chevrolet Corvette convertibles is 66. (Prices range from about $61,000 to $126,000.) The median age goes down to a sprightly 62 for Corvette coupes and the sporty Audi TT roadster, according to the data.
If that’s too downscale, try the Ferrari California with a price of about $202,000 and a top speed of roughly 196 mph. Median buyer age on Long Island: 63.
“While they may be 63 years old, their values and priorities are the same as when they were 43 years old,” said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision.
Long Island’s 65 and over segment will grow fast, according to projections by the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics.
In Nassau, that group is expected to increase by about 46% from 2015 to 2030, expanding to 23% of the overall population at the end of that period, when the youngest Baby Boomers turn 65.
In Suffolk, the 65-plus contingent is projected to grow even faster from 2015 to 2030, increasing by more than 50% to 24% of the overall population.
Michael Dubb, founder and chief executive of Jericho-based housing developer The Beechwood Organization, said Long Island has a large contingent of empty nesters who are seeking maintenance-free living and amenities like walking trails, pickle ball courts and playgrounds for grandchildren.
Dubb has developed 60 communities on Long Island and in the greater metropolitan area, many aimed at homeowners aged 55- or 62-plus.
“I definitely build based on a demographic,” said Dubb, “Depending on the community I’m building, I try to bring the bells and whistles for that community.”
Eighty percent of the units in Beechwood’s Country Pointe communities in Yaphank, Smithtown and Plainview are age-restricted.
Pricing for the 750 units at Country Pointe Plainview, some not yet built, will range from upward of $600,000 to $1.6 million.
Steve Malinsky, 72, and his wife Phyllis moved into their newly constructed home at Country Pointe Plainview in February. He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and moved to New Hampshire in 1976.
Over 37 years, Malinsky built a business manufacturing wooden moldings that supported 53 employees working three shifts.
After selling the business to three employees, the Malinskys headed south to Long Island to be closer to a daughter and grandchildren in Port Washington .
Malinsky said he is finding a sense of community at the Plainview development, where he also has time to dote on a 1955 ice blue metallic Austin-Healy Model 100 convertible, which he personally restored in New Hampshire. He said his investment in the car–not counting labor–is the equivalent of buying a “high-end, decked out Mercedes.”
“There are only about 2,500 left in the world,” he said of the sports car that he bought from an estate sale. “It’s literally a brand-new car.”
These days the Malinskys also have time to travel. They’ve been to Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Tibet, Argentina, Chile, Kenya and Tanzania. Upcoming destinations include Aruba and Israel.
More than one in five Long Islanders aged 65 or older was working, according to 2018 data. Overall, the number of Long Island workers aged 65 and older grew more than 50% from 65,163 in 2010 to 99,812 in 2018.
Fewer companies provide health care to retirees, which creates an incentive to keep working. Plus changes in Social Security regulations encourage workers to wait until age 70 to maximize their benefits or collect benefits and salary at the same time.
Though many 65-plus Long Island householders fit the affluent profile, about 8 percent in Nassau and 9 percent in Suffolk fall below the poverty line. A United Way study found that as of 2016 a much larger segment–31% in Nassau and 36% in Suffolk–faced financial struggles as part of a category known as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — the so-called working poor.
Still, for those Long Island seniors who have found financial security, the golden years can be golden indeed.
Steve Malinsky said that when he was a youngster, “I didn’t realize we were poor. My parents worked paycheck to paycheck. My father lost a hand in an industrial accident.”
But Malinsky was able to build a business and flip the script.
“So far,” he said, “I’ve lived the American dream.”