THE RETIRED PEOPLE OF WEST PALM BEACH
GLENN V. FUGUITT
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
The writer wishes to express his thanks to the chairman of
his Supervisory Committee, Dr. T. Lynn Smith, for his patient co-
operation and guidance throughout the preparation of this thesis.
Acknowledgment should also be given to the other members of the
committee, Dr. John M. Aaclachlan and Or. Herbert A. Meyer, both of
whom willingly gave valuable advice and assistance.
Mr. Irving L. Webber, of the Florida State Improvement Com-
mission was very helpful, particularly in the planning and field
work stages of this project. Professor W. F. Callender, Interim
Director of the University of Florida Bureau of Statistics, suggested
the sample design which was used in the survey.
The writer also wishes to express his appreciation to his wife,
whose encouragement and cooperation was so instrumental in bringing
this thesis to a completion
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES. & . *
LIST OF FIGURES .. #. *
Part One Introduction
I INTRODUCTION. .
II SURVEY OF THE LITERATURE .
III THE COMMUNITY BACKGROUND. .
* 0* *
* *9 0*
Part Two The Retired Population
IV COMPOSITION ..
V THE RETIREMENT PROCESS. .
VI MIGRATION. . .
* 0* S
Part Three Housing, Economic and
VII THE HOUSING SITUATION .
VIll ECONOMIC STATUS. .
IX.- HEALTH STATUS. .
Part Four Activities
CHAPTER X RECREATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES .
CHAPTER XI PARTICIPATION IN ORGANIZATIONS .
CHAPTER XII- RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES. ... .
Part Five Summary and Conclusion
CHAPTER XIII SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION .
BIBLIOGRAPHY. .. .
APPENDIX. . .
LIST OF TABLES
1 Population of West Palm Beach, for Census Years
from 1900 to 1950 . 26
2 Percentage Distribution of Persons in the Labor
Force, by Industry Groups, West Palm Beach and
United States Urban Populations, 1940. 33
3 Age Distribution of the Total Sample, by Sex,
West Palm Beach, 1951. . 39
4 Marital Status of the Total Sample, by Sex,
West Palm Beach, 1951. . 41
5 Religious Preference of the Total Sample, by
Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 . 45
6 Educational Status of Persons in the Total
Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951. 47
7 Former Occupations of Principal Wage Earners,
West Palm Beach, 1951. . 51
8 Industry Group Distribution of Occupations of
Principal Wage Earners, West Palm Beach, 1951. 56
9 Reasons for the Retirement of Principal Wage
Earners, West Palm Beach, 1951 . 58
10 Number of Years Which Members of the Total
Sample Lived in West Palm Beach, by Residence
Before Retirement, West Palm Beach, 1951 .. 64
II Size of Community of Previous Residence, for
Those in the Total Sample Who Moved to West
Palm Beach After Retirement, West Palm Beach
1951 . . 68
12 Living Arrangement of Members of the Total
Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951. 75
13 Attitudes of Persons in the Short Sample Toward
Living Quarters, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 77
14 Attitudes of Persons in the Short Sample Toward
Living in a Neighborhood of Older People, by Sex,
West Palm Beach, 1951 .. . 78
15 Sizes of Families in Sample Households, West
Palm Beach, 1951. .. . 81
16 Approximate Values of Homes Owned by Retired
Persons in the Total Sample, West Palm Beach,
1951. . . 0 0 83
17 Attitudes of Persons in the Short Sample Toward
Present Incomes, West Palm Beach, 1951. 89
18 Number of Persons Dependent Upon Retired House-
hold Heads, West Palm Beach, 1951 .. 90
19 Sources of Incomes Reported by Retired House-
hold Heads, West Palm Beach, 1951 . 92
20 Number of Means of Support Reported by Retired
Household Heads, West Plam Beach, 1951. 94
21 Desire to Work, Retired Household Heads, by
Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951. . 99
22 Attitudes of Persons in the Short Sample Toward
Their Health, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 105
23 Types of Physical Ailments Reported by Persons in
the Short Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 106
24 Number of Physical Ailments Reported by Persons
in the Short Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach,
1951. & a 0 & 0 .* 108
25 The Three Most Important Activities of Persons
in the Short Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach,
1951. . . I1
26 Hobbies Reported by Members of the Total Sample,
by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 . 120
27 Newspaper Reading Practices, Sample Households,
West Palm Beach, 1951 . 122
28 Time Spent Reading, by Persons in the Short
Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 123
29 Number of Organizational Memberships for Persons
in the Total Sample, by Sex, West Palm Beach,
1951. . . 132
30 Attendance of Persons in the Total Sample at
Religious Services, by Sex, West Palm Beach,
1951.. . . 140
31 Church Membership of Persons in the Total Sample,
by Sex, West Palm Beach, 1951 . 142
LIST OF FIGURES
I Age-Sex Pyramid for the White Population of
West Palm Beach, 1940 .. *. . 28
2 Age-Sex Pyramid for the Non-White Population
of West Palm Beach, 1940. .. . 29
3 Index Numbers of Ages, for Selected White Urban
Population, 1940.. . .. .. 35
4 State of Birth of Members of the Total Sample,
West Palm Beach, 1951 . 43
5 State of Previous Residence of Those in the Total
Sample Who Moved to the City After Retirement,
West Palm Beach, 1951 . 66
6 Odum's Regions of the United States 165
This is a sociological study of the retired people who are
living in West Palm Beach, Florida. The objectives of the project
are to obtain factual information on the population characteristics,
housing, economic and health status, and activities of the retired
group, as well as to survey some of the programs and facilities pro-
vided for them in the city.
The analysis of the material is descriptive in scope, with no
attempt made to prove or disprove specific hypotheses. Using the
sociological point of view, emphasis is on stating the facts, rather
than on emphasizing particular problems or advocating specific pro-
grams of action.
The subjects under examination are the white retired persons
living in the specific area bounded by the city limits of West Palm
Beach, Florida, and certain local community institutions and organi-
zations serving these people. While the field work took place during
the summer of 1951, it is the writer's opinion that the generalizations
obtained from the investigation hold true for this city over a somewhat
longer period of time.
Three methods were used to obtain the data analyzed in this re-
port. The most important was an interview survey of retired people liv-
ing in West Palm Beach. The second method was to interview selected
leaders of the community from whom related information was obtained. In
addition, certain secondary sources, such as census reports and histori-
cal works yielded background material. The first one of these means of
obtaining data deserves a more complete explanation.
It was, of course, impossible to talk to all of the retired
people of the city. Therefore, an effort was made to select those inter-
viewed so that they would represent a cross-section of the total group.
To attempt seriously to do so requires a somewhat elaborate procedure,
as will be shown*
At the suggestion of Professor W. F. Callender, Interim Director
of the Bureau of Statistics at the University of Florida, city blocks
were made the basic units of the sample. Thus, certain blocks were
selected throughout West Palm Beach. An occupant of every dwelling
unit within these blocks was then interviewed in order to obtain certain
Information from or about all the retired persons living within the
The next problem was to decide on the number of blocks desired
in the sample. This number was limited by the amount of time availa-
ble for interviewing. It was felt before beginning that only 100 to
120 interviews could be obtained during the period of field work.
At this point a preliminary survey was made in West Palm Beach,
to determine roughly the average number of dwelling units housing re-
tired persons on each block. In the sample of 20 blocks, selected in
a method yet to be described, 27 houses in which retired persons lived
were reported. This indicated that in the city there was per block an
average of about 1.3 dwelling units which housed persons falling under
our definition of retired. According to this estimate, about 107 Inter-
views could be obtained in a sample of 82 blocks. This number of blocks,
then, was selected for the final sample.
As it turned out, the estimate of the preliminary survey was
somewhat low, so that 140 interviews were actually obtained in the 82
blocks. For this reason, another interviewer had to be obtained for a
In order to take a sample that is representative of a total
group, each member of the group must have an equal chance of being
selected. One way of approximating this would have been to pick the 82
sample blocks completely at random. With this method, however, there
would have been a possibility that chance selections would concentrate
in certain areas of the city, leaving others completely without sample
blocks* It was thus felt that a randomly determined, systematic selec-
tion of blocks might give a smaller sampling error. For determining
this sample an enlarged city map was obtained. After marking off the
Negro section which was not included in the study, all the blocks were
numbered In a serpentine manner, starting at the north end and working
south. The last block, on the southeast corner of the city was number
909. By a systematic selection, every "i"th numbered block on the map
was selected for the sample, insuring a more or less uniform geographi-
cal distribution throughout the city. The interval between the block
numbers selected, or 1"* Is the quotient of the total number of blocks
in the city divided by the number of blocks desired in the sample.
The "i" for this sample, then, is equivalent to the total number of
blocks delineated on the map of West Palm Beach, or 909, divided by the
number of blocks desired in the sample, 82, which is equal to approxi-
mately II. Thus, numbered blocks on the map would be taken at intervals
of 11, in order to get 82 blocks for the sample. The actual blocks
taken in the sample were determined by choosing the first block at
random from those numbered one to eleven. Block number nine was the
random selection and became the first block in the final sample. Suc-
ceeding block numbers were obtained by adding eleven each time.
The final sample included nine per cent of all the blocks in
the city. It could then be expected that they would contain approxi-
mately nine per cent of the retired people of the city. A sample of
this size should be fairly representative of the total group for most
Unfortunately, the final sample of retired persons interviewed
was biased in several ways. Every effort was made to contact members
of each family in the sample blocks. The purposes of the survey were
carefully explained and retired persons thus found were Interviewed
where possible. Some persons, however, remained unconvinced of the
value of such a project. Fourteen retired persons refused to be Inter-
viewed, while it is possible that others were omitted merely because
they denied that they were retired.
After three callbackss" no one was found at home in a number
of dwelling units throughout the sample blocks. Some of these may
have been homes of retired persons, although the majority no doubt
housed families in which all members were employed, and therefore away
during the day.
A larger number of houses in the sample blocks were obviously
closed for extended periods. The survey was made during the hot summer
months when many persons take their vacations. No doubt a number of
these houses belonged to persons who were no longer working. This
probably represents the biggest source of bias in the sample, and indi-
cates that persons of modest means, who could not afford to travel were
likely to have been over-represented.
It is seen that the sample survey which was taken, despite all
precautions possible under the circumstances, was nevertheless not per-
fectly representative of all the retired persons who called West Palm
Beach their home during the summer of 1951. The results of the survey,
however, do make the best picture available for this group, and in the
opinion of the writer are not greatly distorted. The chief danger
should lie in over-analyzing the material and trying to draw conclusions
that are too precise. Thus, although most of the present findings are
presented In terms of the sample, it is believed that in the main, they
are equally true of the entire retired group.
The actual interviewing was carried on with the aid of a printed
schedule, one of which was filled out for each respondent by the Inter-
viewers. On it each question was completely written out, to make sure
that every person would be asked the same question in exactly the same
way. A copy of this research aid will be found in the Appendix.
The writer did about two-thirds of the interviewing for the
survey. In order to complete work within the time limit, irs. Esther
C. Holt, a sociology teacher at the West Palm Beach Junior College, was
employed for two weeks and she took the remaining one-third of the
To save time, only one schedule was filled out for each married
couple. The partner contacted was asked a number of questions for his
spouse. In addition, several questions were included which could only
be answered by the person interviewed, along with some concerning the
heads of households, and the total household group.
This method of collecting material and comprehensive coverage
of subject matter in the schedule meant that with one sample, Informa-
tion about five different groups of people was obtained.
The first is made up of persons for whom a completed schedule
was filled out. This group of 140 persons (68 men and 72 women) repre-
sents a somewhat biased sample, as it includes only one person from
each of the retired couples contacted in the survey. Throughout the
report this group is referred to as the short sample.
Next is the total sample group, composed of all the retired
persons about whom information was obtained. This is the short sample
plus the spouses not personally interviewed, totaling 202 persons, 84
of whom are men and 118 are women.
For questions concerning such things as employment since re-
tirement, information was obtained about all retired persons not pre-
sently married and all males who were married, whether or not they were
directly interviewed* Though the term is not strictly accurate, this
group is considered to be the retired heads of households included in
the sample. It consists of 84 men and 56 women, or a total of 140
Certain questions, such as the one on reasons for retirement,
actually concern the principal wage earners of the family groups at the
time of retirement, whether or not they are alive, or presently living
in West Palm Beach. This group, referred to as the principal wage earn-
ers, includes 140 persons, or 122 men and 18 women.
Some information, in addition, was obtained on the 134 house-
holds in which the members of the total sample lived.
For the purposes of this study, the following definition of
"retired persons" has been followed
I. Persons who have left their regular lifetime
occupation. This would Include older persons
working irregularly or part-time.
2. Persons who have never worked, or who are liv-
ing on inherited or earned wealth.
3. Wives of the above persons unless they are work-
4. Widows of retired men.
5. Other widows, 55 years old or over who do not
work or who work part-time,
The median has been used in several parts of this report. This
is a descriptive, statistical measure of central tendency which means
"middle item." If a series of observations are ranked according to their
magnitude, the magnitude at the point equally dividing the observations
is the median. Thus, in Chapter IV, it was stated that the median years
of school completed by the sample group was 9.9. This means that one-
half of the members of the sample attended school for a longer period,
and one-half for a shorter period than 9.9 years.
It is generally recognized that the United States has for
more than a century, been going through a period of rapid social
change. Several of the effects of this change have combined to make
desirable the study of people in the older and retired groups.
Probably the most important of these effects is the changing
age profile of the population, making a dramatic increase in the pro-
portion and absolute number of those of advanced years. This fact is
easily observable with modern census methods. A student of population,
for instance, demonstrated that for the 30 states of the United States
which could be compared, the weighted average of the percentage of those
over 65 in 1830 was 8.31, while the same value for 1930 was 17.85.1
This proportional change, along with the great population growth which
has characterized this nation, means that the absolute number of those
in the older age groups is also increasing.
This increase, however, would not alone justify extensive study
of aged or retired people as a group. Other changes upon our social
scene appear to have made this segment of life an increasingly diffi-
cult period through which to pass. In other words, while people in
most societies probably have to face some form of adjustment to old age,
this adjustment Is becoming harder to make in our society, while at
the same time the number and proportion of those forced to make it is
Raymond Pearl, "The Ageing of Populations," The American Statis-
tical Association Journal, 35 (1940), 277 297.
In a predominantly rural culture, such as existed in the United
States about a century ago, the coming of old age for most people pre-
sented few problems, except those related to increasing physical Infirmi-
ties. At that time the family was more important as a social group than
is true today. Older persons could usually expect to receive physical
and economic assistance from their children or other members of the
family group upon retirement.
Most of the workers then were farmers and small business men,
while wage earners on a whole enjoyed more personal relationships with
their employers than is true today. Thus retirement for most people
could be a gradual rather than an abrupt process. A man could relin-
quish his responsibilities one by one, often turning them over to his
It is well known that this condition no longer exists for a
sizeable part of the population. With the industrial revolution has
come urbanization largely through great internal migrations, with a
resulting decrease in the importance of the family as a group, and
general increase of impersonal relationships. The older person often
can no longer look to his children for shelter, or even financial
assistance. Compact, urban housing does not encourage the addition of
older persons tothe family group, while in many cases mobility makes
strangers of family segments which are a generation apart.
With industries growth and concentration, the proportion of
wage-earners has increased. Among the requirements for many industrial
jobs are high-speed performance and great strength, which tend to
exclude these of advanced years. Personal employer-employee relation-
ships have largely become a thing of the past, and perhaps because of
this, along with reasons of economic expediency, the practice of gradual
retirement has all but died out.
Thus, the machine age worker often finds himself abruptly chang-
ing from a life of strenuous and constant activity to one of apparent
emptiness, many times unable to turn to relatives or friends for finan-
cial assistance, physical care, or psychic support.
Related to these conditions and adding to the frustration of
most persons entering retirement status is the fact that the new emphasis
on science and progress has taken away much of the traditional respect
for the wisdom and importance of older people, especially those no longer
working. Most often these individuals are considered "old fashioned"
or "out of step" by the younger members of our society.
The recognition that this increasing number of older and retired
persons are today facing special problems, has led many individuals and
groups, in line with the ameliorative values of our society, to want
to "do something about it." But intelligent action requires knowledge.
One valuable function of social research, then, is to furnish factual,
objective knowledge about these people. How many persons are in this
group? Where are they? With whom do they live? How well do they solve
their economic problems? What is their overall health status? How do
they use their free time? These and many other questions require an-
swers before the wise planning of any program concerning older and re-
tired people may be undertaken, either on community or higher levels,
by governmental or institutional groups.
The need to learn more about the older and retired citizens
of peninsular Florida is particularly acute, It has been recognized
that the changing structure of society Is concentrating elderly per-
sons in certain sections of the United States. Information is pre-
sented in Chapter II which shows conclusively that older people are
becoming more migratory, and that Florida is receiving increasingly
significant numbers of them.
The value of the present project should now be obvious. It
could provide useful information for community leaders in cities
throughout Florida, as well as state planning agencies. This informa-
tion could be used not only as a factual base for public or institu-
tional programs aimed at assisting these people in their adjustment to
old age and retirement, but also as an aid in making any decision shich
would directly or indirectly affect them. In addition, the findings
of the project should represent a worth-while addition to the fund of
knowledge on this important subject which is being built up by social
scientists throughout the country.
Part One of this report contains introductory material, and
includes this chapter and the two following which are, respectively, a
survey of the literature which has appeared on the subject of old age
and retirement, and a discussion of background information on the city
of West Palm Beach. Part Two is concerned with the retired population.
Chapter IV, the first in this part, includes information on the com-
position of the retired population, while certain facts pertaining to
the process of retirement are taken up In Chapter V. Chapter VI con-
tains a discussion of migration, with special emphasis on those per-
sons coming to the city after their retirement. In Part Three, the
housing situation, economic status and health status are each con-
sidered in a chapter. The activities of the retired group constitute
the general subject of Part Four with chapters devoted to recreational
and educational activities, participation in organizations and partict-
pation in religious activities. Part Five, composed of only one
chapter, summarizes and concludes this project.
SURVEY OF THE L I TERATURE
Writers since antiquity have considered certain aspects of
old age. For example, in The Republic of Plato, Socrates asks an old
companion, Cephalus, whether or not it is harder living near the end
of life. Cephalus answers
Men's regrets, and all their protest about cold
hearted relations and so on, come not from their years but
from their makeup; for anyone who is naturally well bal-
anced, years are no weight. But to men of the opposite
sort, being young or old are equally causes of trouble.I
This point of view is remarkably similar to that held by many students
of the problems of elderly people today. Most discussions of aging be-
fore the current century, however, concerned themselves little with
personal adjustment. Interest usually centered about describing ster-
eotyped personality characteristics of older people, or the medical
aspects of aging, with special emphasis on the possibilities of length-
ening the span of life.
Aristotle, in one of his works, gave a dark picture of the
characteristics of elderly men.2 The philosopher stated that they are
sure of nothing and under-do everything. Moreover, they are cynical,
distrustful, small-minded, penurious, querulous, and cowardly. Finally,
'I. A. Richards, The Republic of Plato, New Yorki W. W. Norton
Company, 1942, p. 18.
2W. D. Ross, Aristotles Selections, New York: Charles Scrib-
ners Sons, 1927, pp. 323 327.
they love life, but live by memory rather than hope.
Francis Bacon, (1561-1626), discussed longevity at length in
an article called "The History of Life and Death."3 Based on historl-
cal and other sources, he made a number of generalizations on the con-
ditions conducive to a long life. Among these were the statements that
men lived longer in a cold climate than in one which was warm, that
islanders had a greater life-span than did persons living on continents,
and that men living in high altitudes usually lived to an older age than
did those in low altitudes. Equality and purity of air he believed to
be important for a long life, and he thought that a well-regulated diet
was the most Important factor of all. This interesting treatise also
Included the prescription for a medicine which was said to be an aid in
the prolongation of life.
An examination of the historical section of Shock's A Classified
Biblioaraphy of Gerontology and Geriatrics indicated that most of the
work done in the past century was on the medical aspects of aging, while
the social conditions characteristic of that period of life were almost
completely Ignored.4 This situation evidently continued to exist
through at least the first three decades of the present century. Otto
Pollak, writing in 1948, stated
3Francis Bacon, "The History of Life and Death," In The Works gf
Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, et al., Bostons Houghton Mifflin
Company, No date given, X, pp. 7 284.
4Nathan W. Shock, A Classified Bibliography of Gerontology and
Geriatrics, Stanfordt The Stanford University Press, 1951.
Except for statistical analyses of older population
groups by demographers and special research by economists
on problems of social security, the exploration and analysis
of the social aspects of aging have been largely neglected
Several reasons may be cited for this neglect. Obviously old
age, or any other segment of life, could not represent a problem for
study until progress and amelioration, or the ability and right of man
to improve his lot, became values in our civilization. Then too, the
scientific emphasis in our culture has only recently led many persons
to the belief that the proper study of a given social situation may be
made only through an objective examination of the individuals in that
Yet these conditions did exist for many years before the social
aspect of old age and retirement received much consideration. The imme-
diate reason for this neglect, then, must have been due largely to the
fact that up to the past two decades it was not generally recognized
that this period of life presented special problems to the individual
in our society, and that the number of persons in the old age and re-
tired groups were increasing.
By this time work in this area did begin in earnest, the social
sciences had become differentiated into a number of disciplines, while
specialization In specific subjects by those of each field also had be-
come the rule. Projects, then, concerned with the social conditions of
5Otto Pollak, Social Adjustment in Old Age, New Yorks Social
Science Research Council, 1948, p. 6.
aging, were almost from the beginning rather highly specialized, being
done by men and women in several disciplines, with many points of view,
and on a variety of subjects*
To attempt to summarize adequately what has been done, both in
research and in applied programs by social scientists and allied work-
ers, would be beyond the scope of this chapter. Reference, however,
will be made here to some of the more descriptive and comprehensive
accounts in the general areas which were considered by the present
study, along with reports on particularly pertinent research projects.
Social Adjustment in Old Ag, by Otto Pollak, Is a very valuable
volume for anyone contemplating social research in old age or retire-
ment*6 It is a research planning report, issued by the Social Science
Research Council, which includes a systematic review of needed research
on societal and personal adjustment to old age. A number of areas are
considered, such as family life, making a living, attitudes toward and
adjustments to retirement, as well as the more general fields of demo-
graphic analysis and psychological analysis of individual adjustment.
There is, In addition, a bibliography in the appendix.
Another important aid to research on old age Is Shock's A Classi-
fied Bibliography of Gerontology and Geriatrics.7 This Is a thorough
bibliography, which includes publications on the medical and biological,
as well as the social aspects of the field.
In 1932, P. K. Whelpton, a specialist In population studies,
Shock, o. citE
was among the first to point out that the number of older persons in
our population was increasing proportionally and absolutely Since
that time a number of individuals have studied this phenomenon. One
of the more recent articles to appear, which covers this subject, along
with other demographic factors related to old age, was written by Henry
A number of surveys have been concerned with the adjustment of
societal and community organizations and processes to the needs of
elderly persons. Some publications aimed at this objective in the areas
of recreation, religion, housing, and economics are mentioned here.
An excellent source, covering the present programs, problems,
and future needs of recreation for older persons, has been written by
Helen Laue.10 In addition, various issues of Recreation magazine over
the past decade have contained articles describing programs of organized
recreation for this group.
Older People and the Church is a book reporting on the first
comprehensive attempt to study the relationship of the protestant
churches to persons over 60 years of age.ll Both pastoral care and
8P. K. Whelpton, "Increase and Distribution of Elders i. our
Population," American Statistical Association Journal, supplement (1932),
9Henry Shryock, "The Changing Age Profile of the Population," in
The Aaed and Society, edited by Milton Derber, Champaign, Illinois: .The
industrial Relations Research Association, 1950, pp. 2 23.
1Helen Laue, "Recreation Needs and Problems of Older People," In
Planning the Older Years, edited by Wilma Donahue and Clark Tibbetts,
Ann Arbors The University of Michigan Press, 1950, pp. 97 -118.
Paul Maves and J. L. Cedarleaf, Older Peole and the Church,
New Yorke Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1949,
group work are considered, based upon the experience of the authors
and the results of a survey in a protestant church district.
Little has been published on housing for the elderly person.
Many aspects of this problem, however, are considered in an article by
Hertha Kraus.12 The need for more adequate housing, particularly for
elders not living in institutions is discussed, along with what already
has been done for this problem both here and abroad. Attention in her
paper is given also to financial arrangements for possible housing pro-
grams, as well as to the desirability of companion group apartments
for those of advanced years*
Part II of the Industrial Relations Research Association publi-
cation entitled The Aged and Society contains a number of selections
covering most phases of the present economic situation3 Included are
discussions of the older person in the labor market, the relations of
industry and unions to the older worker, the question of the desirability
of an arbitrary retirement age, and government and private pension
The psychological aspects of aging represent another main area
of research* An excellent survey of the accomplishments of workers in
this field was made by Samuel Granick.14 The first of two categories
12Hertha Kraus, "Housing our Older Citizens," The Annals of the
Academy of Political and-Social Science, 279 (January 1952) 38 126.
13Milton Derber, editor, The Aged and Society Champaign, III1-
noiss The Industrial Relations Research Association, 1950, pp. 56 137.
14Samuel Granick "Studies in the Psychology of Senility-A
Survey," Journal of Gerontologv, 5 (1950), pp. 44 58.
into which he divides the projects that have been completed is the
Intellectual and learning abilities of these people, which includes
studies of intelligence test performance, memory, vocabulary, reasoning
and related factors, and performance and achievement. The second cate-
gory is concerned with studies of personality functioning and adjust-
ments, subdivided into personality characteristics and adjustments, and
Interests, attitudes, belief, and motivation.
Some research has been done on the broader and generally all-
inclusive subject of personal adjustment to old ages that is, the ad-
justment of the elderly individual to his society. One of the first
such studies was conducted by Judson T. Landis in 1940.15 An interview
survey was made of 450 rural persons of advanced ages in Iowa, divided
according to whether or not they were dependent or independent
A significant and consistent difference was found between
dependents and non-dependents. Among other things, dependents in this
sample had less education, married earlier, left home earlier, moved
more, and had poorer health on an average than did non-dependents.
Group comparisons were also made on the basis of a composite score*
A significantly larger number of the better adjusted persons were found
to have good health, regular work, and hobbies than those in the poorer
adjusted group. Those with the higher adjustment scores, moreover,
5Judson T. Landis, "Attitudes and Adjustments of Aged Rural
People in Iowa," Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State
University, 1940, cited in the University Bulletin, Louisiana State
University. 33 N. S. (1941) 27 29.
usually visited one another, attended church, and made plans for the
future to a greater extent than the others.
A good survey of past and current developments in the area of
adjustment in old age is to be found in The Aged and Society.16
It has been recognized that the changing structure of society,
and specialization on the part of cities, is concentrating elderly per-
sons in certain sections of the United States. A sizeable proportion
of these people recently have been finding themselves financially
independent, and free from family and other social ties. This along
with the fact that the general population of the country has been
highly mobile in recent years, has helped to encourage a number of old
people to migrate permanently from their former homes. As a result,
some cities and areas are emerging as retirement cities and retirement
A number of research projects have touched on this phenomenon.
Demographic studies have been made which either directly or indirectly
reveal the importance and direction of the movements of elderly people,
while several community surveys have thrown light upon the social sit-
uation of those members of the older age group living In selected re-
T. Lynn Smith recently made an exploratory study of the migration
16Earnest W. Burgess, "Personal and Social Adjustment in Old Age,"
In The Aged and Society, edited by Milton Derber, Champaign, Illinoiss
Industrial Relations Research Association, 1950, pp. 138 156.
of older people during the decade between 1930 and 1940.17 Using Census
data, he showed that an important movement of elders is taking place to
the west coast and gulf coast of the United States. More specifically,
peninsular Florida, southern California, and eastern Texas gained the
largest number of older people in this decade* With few exceptions, be
found that counties in which large cities were located had a low propor-
tion of aged migrants from elsewhere. The smaller cities in the south,
however, did appear to attract significant numbers of these people dur-
ing the decade, while the same was true of many state capitals, espe-
cially If they were also university towns.
The more recent demographic studies have been made which, along
with other things, furnish scientific information of the redistribution
of elders between 1940 and 1950. Homer L. Hitt, by applying procedures
similar to those employed by T. Lynn Smith, to 1940 along with prelimi-
nary 1950 census data, gave conclusive evidence that the magnitude of
migration by older people was substantially greater in this period than
it had been during the preceding decade.18 By a comparison with Pro-
fessor Smith's analysis of the earlier period he found, for example,
that California gained 99,000 migrants over 65 between 1940 and 1950,
as compared with 57,000 between 1930 and 1940. The corresponding
17T. Lynn Smith, "The Migration of the Aged," in Problems of
America's Agig Population, edited by T. Lynn Smith,.Gainesvilles The
University of Florida Press, 1951, pp. 15 28.
18Homer L. Hitt, America's Aaed aI Midcenturyt Number, Di*-
tribution, and Pattern of Change. Paper read at the Second Annual
Southern Conference on Gerontology, January 28, 1952.
figures for Florida were 65,500 and 33,000. Evidently, the general
areas receiving migrants did not change greatly during the latest dec-
ade, as Professor Hitt found, in agreement with Professor Smith's ear-
lier study, that the states on the gulf coast and the west coast of
the United States were outstanding in this respect* This Interesting
paper also contained Information on the number and distribution and in-
crease of the population over 65 throughout the United States, utilizing
the latest available census figures.
A report of more localized interest for this thesis is Florida's
Older Population, written by T. Stanton Dietrich.19 Using a somewhat
different method from that employed by Professor Hitt, Professor
Dietrich estimated that approximately 96,000 persons migrated into
Florida between 1940 and 1950 who were 65 and over in 1950. He pointed
out that this figure represented 40 per cent of Florida's older popu-
lation in 1950, and about 16.5 per cent Of the estimated 592,000 per-
sons of all ages who came to Florida from other areas in the recent dec-
ade.20 Other sections of this report dealtwith the extent of "old age"
In the United States, and the growth, racial composition, and propor-
tion and number of white persons, in Florida's older population.
Taken together, these three studies show conclusively that older
people are becoming more migratory, and that Florida Is receiving In-
creasingly significant numbers of them.
19T. Stanton Dietrich, Florida's Older Population, Tallahassees
Florida State Improvement Commission, 1952.
A ** # p. 21
One of the first community surveys which has been made of the
aged population in a retirement center was carried out by W. C. McKain
in 1947.21 He chose a California village with a large proportion of
elders who had recently migrated from other states, and concentrated his
attention upon the social participation of these people.
Various means were used to get information, the chief of which
was through personally interviewing a sample of residents over 65.
Along with other findings, this survey showed that older persons in the
village participated less than younger ones in formal and informal ac-
tivities, and that health, length of residence, occupation, education,
level of living, marital status, living arrangements, place of birth,
and residential history were related to the extent of social participa-
Professor McKain, with E. D. Baldwin, recently did a similar
study in a Connecticut retirement town.22 Instead of examining ex-
haustively one aspect of the social situation of older people, as Pro-
fessor McKaln did in California, this survey was broader and more des-
criptive in scope. Topics included for investigation were the general
characteristics of the older residents, migration, their economic situa-
tion, health, agricultural activities, living conditions, family ties,
21W. C. McKain, "The Social Participation of Old People in a
California Retirement Community," Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
Harvard University, 1947.
22W. C. McKain and Elmer D. Baldwin, Old Ag and Retirement Ja
Rural Connecticut, 1. East Haddame A Summe Resort Community, Storrst
Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Connecticut,
and leisure-time activities.
During the summer of 1950, Irving L. Webber surveyed the retired
people of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida.23 This work was a unique
contribution in several ways. It was probably the first attempt to
study retired people as a group, rather than including all those per-
sons above an arbitrary age* It was also the first objective inquiry on
the aged migrants who have come in such large number to the gulf coast
of the United States. St. Petersburg, renowned as a mecca for members
of this group, was well selected for such a study.
Sources of data included a sample survey of members of the re-
tired group, along with interviews of selected community leaders. The
information obtained was analyzed descriptively in an effort to learn
more of the general economic and social characteristics of the retired
group in this Florida city. While it is difficult to summarize briefly
the findings of a report with such broad objectives, the principal topics
which were examined included the population characteristics of the re-
tired group, recreation, organizations, health, housing, economic status,
and their attitudes toward St. Petersburg.
It will be noted that the purposes and scope of the St. Peters-
burg study and of this thesis are very similar. An attempt then, has
been made in the survey of West Palm Beach to add to existing knowledge
about retired people through an already existing frame of reference.
Irving L. Webber, The Retired Population ofl t. Petersburg,
~ts Characteristics and Social Situation, Tallahassees Florida State
Improvement Commission, 1950.
THE COMMUNITY BACKGROUND
The city of West Palm Beach is located on the lower east coast
of Florida, 283 miles south of Jacksonville, and 66 miles north of
ilami, on U. S. Highway number one. The city is long and narrow in
shape, with an area of 15.4 square miles. It is bounded on one side
by a fresh water lake and on the other by Lake Worth, a narrow bay
which separates the island of Palm Beach from the mainland.
The climate of the area is subtropical. According to a re-
lease from the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, the mean annual
temperature is 78o. The gulf stream is directly offshore along this
part of the coast, and the trade winds create a breeze for the city
during most of the year. In common with almost all coastal areas of
Florida, the topography of the city is low and flat, with an altitude
ranging from sea level to about 18 feet.
South Florida was one of the last sections of the state to be
settled. In 1890 there were only a handful of persons living on Palm
Beach or the area that is now West Palm Beach. Three years later
Henry Flagler, the well-known developer of the Florida east coast, was
attracted to the vicinity. He saw the possibilities of Palm Beach as
an exclusive winter resort, and purchased property on both sides of
Lake Worth. Work was begun immediately on the Royal Poinciana Hotel
on the beach, while his Florida East Coast railroad was being extended
south to the area.
Flagler intended West Palm Beach to be a railroad station and
service center for the island resort. He laid out a townsite on the
mainland, built roads and other improvements, and Instructed his
workers to move there. In 1894, the railroad reached West Palm Beach,
and the community was incorporated during the same year.
Since this time, the city has been characterized by a continu-
ous and rapid growth. Table I shows the population of West Palm Beach
for each census year since 1900, as well as the absolute and relative
change between censuses* With only 564 persons reported in 1900, the
city has grown to over 43,000 in 1950. The decade with the greatest
percentage growth was 1910-1920, when the number of inhabitants
swelled from 1,743 to 8,659 for a 396 per cent increase. The next
decade, that of the Florida "Boom," showed the largest absolute in-
crease. During the 'thirties, with the depression, the population in-
crease was both relatively and absolutely smaller than in the period
1920-19350 This was also true of the latest decade, although during
this period slightly more growth was shown than in the Inter-censal
period immediately preceding.
Through the years, Palm Beach has become known the country
over as a resort for the rich. West Palm Beach, however, is now more
than a service center for the island, as was Flagler's original intent.
It has become a winter and summer resort in its own right, as well as
a trade and service center for the surrounding agricultural area. To-
day the population of the mainland city is more than ten times that of
A consideration of some of the basic facts about the population
POPULATION OF WEST PALM BEACH, FOR CENSUS YEARS FROM 1900 TO 1950*
Increase Over Preceding
Year Population Census
Number Per Cent
1900 564 --
1910 1,743 1,179 209.0
1920 8,659 6,916 396.0
1930 26,610 17,951 207.3
1940 33,693 7,083 26.6
1950 43,162 9,469 28.1
Bureau of the Census, U Census of Populations 1950.
I, Number of Inhabitants. Chapter 10a Florida, Washing-
Government Printing Office, 1951, p. 9.
of the city should furnish a valuable background for this study. As
had already been Indicated, West Palm Beach had 43,162 inhabitants in
1950. This made it the eleventh largest city in the state of Florida...
Of this population, a large proportion are Negroes. In 1940,
the time of the last census for which such figures are available, 33.4
per cent of the total group were members of this race.I While practi-
cally all of these persons were born here in the United States, a
number of the whites of the community migrated from foreign countries.
Thus foreign born whites constituted nine per cent of the white total
at that time.
Within the total West Palm Beach population there were In 1940
93.3 men for every 100 women. This preponderance of women is not un-
usual for an urban area, particularly one with no heavy industry. The
sex ratio for the urban population of Florida in 1940 was 92.3, while
the comparable figure for the United States as a whole was 95.5.
Information on the age characteristics of the people of West
Palm Beach also deserves consideration. A complete, overall picture
of the age distribution of the community by sex may best be obtained
by use of the age-sex pyramid. Such graphs are prepared so that each
bar represents the percentage that an age category by sex is of the
total population represented. Figures I and 2 are pyramids for the
Unless otherwise specified, the primary source of all popu-
lation material presented in the remainder of this chapter is the
Sixteenth Census of the United States. 1940, Population. Vol. II,
Characteristics of the Population, Washingtont Government Printing
1 i ,"
2 "1 :: :
-44 MAL. V.J' PEELu
. Figure tI Age-Sex Pyramid for the White Population o# lest Palm Beach, l940
Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States,
1940 Population, Vol. II, Characteristics of the Population, Washingtons
Government Printing Office, 1943, part 2, p. 128.
~Ii~-":. ` ~+;;
5 4 3 2 1
::~r' .Y.;; l~u
PER CEN'T ALE
Figure 2. Age-Sex Pyramid for the Non-White
Population of West Pala
Population of West Palm
Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census Sixteenth Census of thi ni ed
States, 1940. Population. Vol I1, CharactersTi t-rg P f .
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1943, part 2, p. 128.
white and non-white population of West Palm Beach. These graphs
clearly show a preponderance of people in the working age groups. A
low birth rate for the city, or a heavy migration to It, or both is
suggested by the relatively small group In the younger age groups of
both races. The differences between the white and Negro figures are
striking. There is a very much smaller proportion of aged persons in
the Negro than In the white group, and this seems to have been made up
by a larger proportion of negroes in the working ages. Most of this
racial difference probably was caused by a large migration of working
age Negroes into the city.
The birth and death rates and migration determine the changes
In size of a population over a given period. Birth rates are often
measured by an Index known as the fertility ratio. This is the number
of children under 5, divided by the number of women aged 20-44. In
1940 this ratio for West Palm Beach was 241, which was almost the same
as the Florida urban value. Both of these, however, were somewhat be-
low the ratio of 310 obtained for the urban population of.the entire
The death rate may be measured in a number of ways, all of
which depend upon state registration data. The crude death rate is
the number of recorded'deaths divided by the total population of an
area, times 1000. It is not very satisfactory for comparative purposes,
but is the most simple index to construct. In 1940 this rate was 10.6
for West Palm Beach, and 13.1 for all Florida cities of 10,000 to
100,000 population.2 These differences could simply reflect variations
in age distributions. At any rate it can probably be said that the
West Palm Beach rates are not excessively higher than would be expected
for a city of this size*
With a low birth rate, at least up to recent years, and a death
rate that does not appear to be excessively low or high, the population
of West Palm Beach would be expected to decline, if there were no move-
ment into the area. The tremendous growth of the city then can be al-
most entirely attributed to migration. This great influx of people is
very significant in an interpretation of the city's social phenomena.
For one thing it means that the population is very heterogeneous with
regard to origin within the United States.
An indication of this is given in a study made in 1942 by J. R.
Holt, of the part-time employment of Palm Beach High School students.3
For this project, questionnaires were distributed to 427 boys and girls
in the commercial and diversified training departments of the white
public high school. It was found that of this group of young people,
47 per cent were born in other states, 19 per cent in other parts of
Florida and only 30 per cent in the city of West Palm Beach. Thus over
half of the children in this sample belonged to families who were
2Federal Security Agency, United States Public Health Service,
Vital Statistics of the United States, 1949, Part II, Washington:
U. S. Government Printing Office, 1943, p. 24, 182.
3Jonathan R. Holt, "A Study of the Part Time Employment of Palm
Beach High School students," Unpublished M. A. Thesis, Gainesvilles
University of Florida, 1942.
relatively recent migrants.
The Florida State Census of 1945 is another source which points
to the heterogeneity of the origins of those persons living In West
Palm Beach. In the published report of this enumeration, the nativity
of the residents of Florida was tabulated by counties.4 Of the 66,767
persons reported for Palm Beach County at that time, only 27 per cent
*were born in Florida. About the same proportion of this group stated
that they had originated in some other southeastern state, while about
40 per cent gave one of the northern states as their places of birth.
The remaining county residents at that time were tabulated as foreign
born or as originally coming from one of the western states.
That West Palm Beach has functioned mainly as a trade and
service center, at least in recent years, is indicated by industry
group employment percentages from the 1940 census, which are tabulated
In Table 2. Here it is seen that more than half of the labor force of
15,192 at that time was reported in the wholesale and retail trade and
the personal service industry classifications. The Urban United States
classification, put In for comparison, shows that a greater proportion
of the labor force of West Palm Beach was working in these two indus-
tries, as well as construction, than was the comparable group In all of
the nation's cities. The fact that almost one third of the West Palm
Beach workers were In the personal services at that time, as compared
to 10 per cent of the workers in the United States category, seems
4The Seventh Census of the State of Florida 1945 Tallahassee?,
State Department of Agriculture? No date given, p. 91 120.
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF PERSONS IN THE LABOR FORCE, BY
INDUSTRY GROUPS, WEST PALM BEACH AND UNITED STATES
URBAN POPULATIONS, 1940*
Industry Group West Palm Beach Urban U. S.
Agriculture and mining 1.9 2.1
Construction 7.9 4.8
Manufacturing 4.8 29.2
tion, Utilities 6.1 8.7
Wholesale and Retail Trade 26.3 21.4
Finance, Insurance, and
Real Estate 4.5 4.6
Business and Repair Services 2.5 2.2
Personal Service 30.4 10.8
Amusement and Recreation 2.8 1.2
Professional and Related 7.6 8.6
Government Work 3.2 4.7
Not Reported 2.0 1.5
*Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Cens~a of th United
States, 1940. Population, Vol. II, Characteristics of the
Population, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1943,
Part 2, p. 130 and Part I, p. 49.
particularly significant, along with the much greater proportion of
individuals engaged in manufacturing in urban areas over the country
than In the Florida city.
The importance of West Palm Beach as a residential center for
older people is highly pertinent to this study of the retired. Age
data from the 1940 census helps to give some perspective on this func-
tion of the city. At the time 6.9 per cent of the total population
was 65 years of age or older. The 1940 age sex pyramids for the city,
introduced earlier in this chapter, showed the whites to have a much
greater representation proportionally in the older categories than did
the Negroes. Viewed another way, only 2.2 per cent of the total Negro
population of West Palm Beach at that time had reached their sixty-
fifth birthday, but 9.9 per cent of the white group could be classified
in this way*
To help illustrate the relative Importance of the aged white
population in West Palm Beach, as compared to other segments of the
population within the United States Figure 3 has been prepared, using
index numbers. With this technique, one of the populations is taken
as the base to which the others are related. The percentage distribu-
tion by age for each population is first obtained. Then, age by age,
the populations separately are made proportional to the base popula-
tion, while the base population is a straight line across the page*
It will be noted in Figure 3 that the U. S. white urban popu-
lation is taken as the base, while the Florida white urban population,
the St. Petersburg white population and the West Palm Beach white popu-
lation are used for comparison.
* u '
** L -
?t & &i
1 1b 1
It is immediately obvious that all three of these groups have
a more important aged population than the United States as a whole.
All are above the 100 line beyond the age of 55. All three are also
below the Ine for ages less than thirty, showing a smaller proportional
number of younger persons in these groups as compared to the base.
In checking the extent of concentration of the aged for the
three Florida populations, the importance of this group in the city
of St. Petersburg stands out. Its line is lower than the others at the
younger ages, and does not cross 100 until the 40 44 age group, 10
years after the West Palm Beach and the Florida urban white segments.
After this the line for St. Petersburg soars above the others, reaching
a peak index number of 275 for the ages 70 74. This means that the
percentage of the total white population of St. Petersburg in this age
group is more than three times that of the same age group for the urban
white population of the entire United States.
By contrast with St. Petersburg, urban Florida and West Palm,
Beach appear rather similar and remain close to the United States base
line. West Palm Beach has a higher proportion of Its white population
in the aged and working age groups than does the Florida urban segment,
with a corresponding lower proportion in the younger intervals, but the
difference is slight. The fact that the Florida white urban segment
contains many cities obviously not functioning as centers for the aged,
and enjoying relatively high birth rates, would tend to show that West
Palm Beach is not nearly so important a haven for those in later years
as are many other Florida cities*
The recent origin of West Palm Beach, its tremendously rapid
growth, the racial and geographical heterogeneity of its people, Its
general functions, and Importance as a residential center for the aged,
are all important factors to be remembered in interpreting this study
of the retired group.
THE RETIRED POPULATION
The examination of certain personal attributes should be
basic to any study of a population. Demographers recognize this fact,
and all modern census reports contain some tabulations on age, sex,
marital status, nativity, and other similar characteristics. The
respondents in the West Palm Beach survey of retired persons were asked
several questions of this nature in such a way that the Information
could be tabulated for the total sample group. Some of the results
obtained will be discussed In this chapter.
Perhaps no other personal characteristic exerts more Influence
on the roles played on the status enjoyed by an Individual in our
society than does age. Retirement, for Instance, which marks for many
a complete change in life, is often forced on the individual due to
limitations of advanced years.
That most of the retired persons of West Palm Beach are found
to be In the older age groups, is certainly not surprising. The median
age for the sample of 202 was 69.3 years. It is a mistake, however,
to think that all the retired are older people. Table 3 indicates that
this at least is not the case in one Florida city, with eligible per-
sons interviewed in all age groups down to and including the 35 to 39
year interval. It is interesting to note that most studies of the
older population of the United States are limited to those persons
above 65. In West Palm Beach 35 per cent of the sample group reported
AGE DISTRIBUTION OF THE TOTAL SAMPLE, BY SEX*
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total Male Female
35 39 2 I I
40 44 3 I 2
45 49 6 3 3
50 54 9 4 5
55 59 19 8 11
60 64 32 8 24
65 69 35 15 20
70 74 37 16 21
75 79 31 12 19
80 84 17 10 7
85 89 7 4 3
90 94 I I 0
Age Not Ascertained 3 I 2
ages below this figure.
A comparison of the age distribution by sex shows that the
women were slightly younger than the men on an average. Thus, median
ages for the male and female segments were close together, but the
value for the males was higher, with 70.6 and 68.2 for the sexes
Another difference in the age distribution by sex for the total
sample is that the females were grouped about the median age to a some-
what greater extent than the males* Thus, while 61 per cent of the 84
males were between the ages of 60 and 79, 71 per cent of the 118 females
were in this category.
More persons were listed as being between the ages of 70 and
74 than in any other age group. This was true of both sexes, with 16
males and 21 females, or a total of 37 reported in this segment.
Of the 202 retired persons in the sample, 84 were men and 118
were women. Thus the sex ratio, 71 males per 100 females, was low. It
will be remembered that the corresponding figure for the total popula-
tion of West Palm Beach in 1940 was 95.3.
Table 4 gives the marital status of the sample by sex. It is
seen that 60 per cent of the group was married, and one-third widowed.
Very few declared themselves to be single or divorced, as these seg-
ments made up 4 and 1.4 per cent of the total sample respectively.
More than three-fourths of the men were married as compared to only one-
half of the women. On the other hand, over forty per cent of the females
were widowed, with less than twenty per cent of the men classed as
MARITAL STATUS OF THE TOTAL SAMPLE, BY
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total I Ma le FemalI
Marital Status Per Per Per
Number Cent Number Cent Number Cent
Married 124 61.4 64 76.1 60 50.9
with Spouse 2 1.0 I 1.2 1 0.8
Widowed 65 32.3 16 19.1 49 41.5
Single 8 4.0 3 3.6 5 4.3
Divorced 3 1.4 3 2.5
TOTAL 202 100.0 84 100.0 118 100.0
,i.... ...,..-.. -,, .....
widowers. The fact that men are more likely to remarry no doubt helps
to explain these differences.
Chapter III underscored the heterogeneity of the origins of
the people of West Palm Beach, and mentioned that the city appeared
to function to some degree as a residential center for older people
from other areas. Therefore It is not surprising to note on Figure 4
that the places of birth of the retired people in the total sample
varied widely in geographic location. Only one person was born in West
Palm Beach, only 12 in Florida and 45, less than one-fourth, in the
southeastern states. The map shows that the largest number came origi-
nally from New York, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida,
Georgia, Ohio, and Indiana.
A comparison, using Odum's regions of the United StaJes, gives
results that are meaningful.1 The northeast leads these areas, con-
taining states that were reported by 35 per cent of the total sample,
followed by the southeast with 22 per cent and the middle states with
20 per cent. Evidently few of the retired persons living in West Palm
Beach were born in the west. Only six persons, or 2.8 per cent of the
total sample originally came from the northwest region and only one was
born in a far western state. None of this group was born in the
The foreign born constitute an important part of the sample*
IA map delineating these regions will be found in the appendix.
Taken from Howard W. Odum, Southern Regions of th United S.taes, Chapel
Hills The University of North Carolina Press, 1936, p. 246.
I I I
'DIII I 0
Eighteen per cent, or about one in six of the 202 retired persons
about which information was obtained reported some country other than
the United States as their place of birth. Of this group, six persons
were born in Canada, one in the British West Indies, and the other
thirty- one in various European nations.
Whether or not a person is actively affiliated with a church,
his religious background often exerts a great influence on his atti-
tudes and actions. Religious *preference is therefore an important
characteristic to consider.
Evidently most of the retired people of West Palm Beach are
Protestants. Table 5 indicates that 85.6 per cent of the respondents
gave this preference, while 11.4 per cent were listed as Catholic,
two per cent as Jewish, and one per cent in the "Other" category* An
analysis by sex shows a slightly higher proportion of men than women
in the Protestant group, with the reverse holding true for the Catholic
Some amount of formal education has become almost essential
for survival in our complex urban way of life. Many years of academic
training, moreover, often are necessary for responsible positions in
society. Much of our cultural heritage is passed down to new genera-
tions through the school. The amount of schooling which a person
masters is a basic factor, therefore, in determining his function and
status as well as greatly influencing his actions and attitudes.
The number of years of school completed was obtained for the
persons in the total sample group. In analyzing these data, it was
PREFERENCE OF THE TOTAL SAMPLE, BY SEX,
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total_ I Male Fema e
Religious Preference Per Per Per
Number Cent Number Cent Number Cent
Protestant 174 85.6 74 88.1 88 83.9
Catholic 23 11.4 7 8.3 16 13.6
Jewish 4 2.0 1 1.2 3 2.5
Other 2 1.0 2 2.4 -
TOTAL 202 100.0 84 00.0 118 100.0
.... .-. ,
found that the median years of school completed by these people was
9.9. This is a high figure for a group who attended school from
thirty to seventy years ago. In fact the median for the total white
population of the United States in 1940 was only 8.4.2
The difference by sex was also unusual, with medians of 10.3
for the men and 9.5 for the women. Usually women show up higher than
men in measures of educational status.
Table 6 Is a classification of the amount of schooling com-
pleted by members of the total sample. Here it is shown that about
one in four of this group completed less than eight grades. Of the
almost three-fourths who finished more than 8 grades, half, or 36 per
cent of the total, finished high school. Only 15, or 7.5 per cent of
the 202 members of the total sample completed four or more years of
Table 6 also consistently shows the sex differences first re-
vealed by the medians. Proportionately more men than women had com-
pleted more than eight grades, more than twelve grades, and more than
four years of college, while the reverse was true for those attending
school less than eight years.
In this chapter certain personal attributes of the West Palm
Beach retired population have been discussed. The median age for the
sample group was shown to be 69.3, with individual reports ranging from
U. S. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United
States, 1940 Poulation, Vol. II, Characteristics of the Population,
Washington: Government Printing.Office, 1943, Part I, P. 40.
EDUCATIONAL STATUS OF PERSONS IN THE TOTAL SAMPLE, BY SEX,
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total Ma le Fema l
Educational Status Per Per Per
Number Cent Number Cent Number Cent
Less Than Eight
Grades 47 23.3 19 22.6 28 23.8
Eight or More
Grades 149 73.8 63 75.3 86 72.8
Twelve or More
Grades 74 36.6 31 37.0 43 36.4
Four Years College
or More 15 7.4 10 11.9 5 4.2
38 to 92 years* It was pointed out that approximately one-third are
There are more retired women than men living in the city with
a sex ratio of about 74 for this group. Approximately one-half of the
people in the group are married, and one-third widowed* Proportionally,
more men are married and fewer widowed than is true for the women.
The places of birth of these people varied widely in geographic
location* Only about one person in twenty was born in Florida, while
about one in four originated in another southeastern state* About one-
half of the individuals in the group were born in a northern state, and
one-fifth in foreign countries.
Over three-fourths of the retired people are Protestants, and
most of the remainder are Catholic. There was only a very small number
of persons of the Jewish faith in the sample group.
About one-half of the retired persons have completed nine grades
of schooling, and almost one-third have graduated from high school.
These proportions seem somewhat high for those who received their for-
mal education from thirty to seventy years ago.
THE RETIREMENT PROCESS
In studying a group of people it is not always sufficient to
learn something about their present characteristics, activities and
attitudes. Often data about the past of these persons also are ne-
cessary to help complete the picture. Little information of a histori-
cal nature was obtained from the West Palm Beach sample. The only
period in the past life of this group which was examined to any extent
was the time of their retirement.
For purposes of analysis, retirement may be considered a pro-
cess, or period of change, through which individuals or couples pass.
it involves the cessation of work, in his main lifetime occupation, by
the principal wage earner of each family, as well as persons living
outside family groups.
By this definition, every member of the total sample group of
the West Palm Beach survey went through the retirement process at a
certain place and definite time. While the place of retirement for
the group will be considered indirectly in the chapter on migration,
this section will take up the time of this change, along with the pre-
vious occupations of wage earners, and the principal reasons given by
this group for retirement.
Retirement has been a very recent event for at least one-half
of the sample group. Ninety-six of these 202 persons, comprising 47.5
per cent of the total, retired after 1945. Another 22.3 per cent were
in families in which the head ceased active working life between 1941
and 1945. Thus seven out of ten persons in the sample had entered
retirement status within the ten year period previous to the survey.
Out of the remaining 30 per cent one-half, or 15 per cent of the total
retired between 1930-40, and another nine per cent of the total between
1920-30, while one person entered this status in 1918. Information on
the time of retirement was not ascertained for ten persons, making five
per cent of the total group.
There were 140 principal wage earners for the members of West
Palm Beach sample, consisting of 122 men and 18 women. All of the 84
men in the present group were principal wage earners, while 38 men,
who were husbands of women in the sample, died previous to the survey.
The 18 women who were principal wage earners were all in the pre-
sent sample. Six were single or divorced, while the other 12 took on
the main employment obligation for their families on the death of
These wage earners were engaged in a wide variety of occupations
before their retirement as is clearly shown in Table 7. There it is
seen that 118 different means of livelihood were recorded for this
group of 140 persons*
Closer examination discloses that the occupations ranged from
,bank president to day laborer. While it is difficult to classify
them in a meaningful way, perhaps a few observations can be made* When
divided Into the rough dichotomy of "white collar" and "trade and
labor" workers, a few over half were found in the first group. Of this
FORMER OCCUPATIONS OF PRINCIPALWAGE EARNERS
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Occupation Total Male Female
Animal Hide Broker
Assistant Superintendent, Public Works
Auger Bit Maker
Automatic Signal Operator, Railroad
Builder, Homes, and Real Estate Development
Buyer, Liquor Store
Clerk, Grocery Store
Clerk, Army Quartermaster Corps.
Dealer, Wholesale Vegetables
Enlisted Man, Army
Executive, Bank (President)
Executive Food Industry (Vice President)
Executive, Insurance Company
Fireman, City Fire Department
Foreman, Pattern Shop
Gardener, (Yard Man)
Occupation Total Male Female
Sub Total Forward
Iron Worker, Construction
Mail Dispatcher, Post Office
Manager, Dining Room and Hotel
Manager, Wholesale Drug Business
Manager, Woolen Mill
Medical Doctor (Surgeon)
Moulder, Iron Industry
Officer, Air Force
Operator, Truck Farm
Owner-Operator, Butcher Shop
Owner-Operator, Cigar Store
Owner-Operator, Department Store
Owner-Operator, Elevator Repair Service
Owner-Operator, Feed Store
Owner-Operator, General Store
Owner-Operator, Grocery Store
Owner-Operator, Local Bus Line
Owner-Operator, Millinery Store
Owner-Operator, Motel and Gas Station
Owner-Operator, Office Supply Company
Owner-Operator, Oil Supply Company
Owner-Operator, Printing and Engraving Plant
51 45 6
2 2 0
I 0 1
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I 0 I
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
2 2 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
I I 0
2 2 0
I 0 1
I I 0
I I 0
Occupation Total Male Female
Sb Total Forward 90 80 10
Owner-Operator, Restaurant I I 0
Owner-Operator, Wholesale Lumber Business I I 0
Painter I I 0
Pattern Maker, Tool I I 0
Pharmlcist, Owner, Drug Store I I 0
Photographer I I 0
Pilot, Air Line I I 0
Plumber 2 2 0
Policeman I I 0
Principal, Public School 2 I I
Real Estate Broker 3 3 0
Road Builder, Municipal II 0
Sales Manager I I 0
Salesman, Coal Business I I 0
Salesman, Dairy Business I I 0
Salesman, Hardware I I 0
Salesman, Insurance I I 0
Salesman, Motor Truck I I 0
Salesman, Paint and Varnish I I 0
Salesman, Real Estate I I 0
Salesman, Show II 0
Salesman, Wholesale Confections I I 0
Salesman, Wholesale Grocery 2 2 0
Seamstress I 0 I
Seamstress (Dressmaker) 3 0 3
Secretary I 0 I
Sign Painter I I 0
Station Agent, Railroad I I 0
Statistician, Air Force I I 0
Steamer, Woolen Mill I I 0
Steamf Itter II 0
Stone Mason I I 0
Superintendent, Apartment Building I I 0
Superintendent, Paving Company I I 0
Teacher, Junior College I I 0
Teacher, Public School 2 I I
Tool and Die Maker I I__ 0
Sub Total 135 118 17
Occupation Total Male Female
Sub Total Forward 135 118 17
Veterinarian I I 0
Watchman I I 0
Watchman, Millionaires Home I I 0
Worker, Sheet Metal I I 0
Never Worked I 0 I
TOTAL 140 122 18
"white collar" group, there seem to be few persons who were in the
professions. Only one doctor and one lawyer appear, with five report-
ing that they had worked in the teaching field. Altogether there were
about 12 Individuals who could fall into the professional category.
There were also in the "white collar group", a few executives and
managers of business enterprises of all sizes. The largest single
number in this segment, however, are those who were the owners and
operators of their own businesses, which were mostly in the area of
retail trade. The next largest number includes the people who used to
be in clerical and sales work.
Of the persons in the trade and laboring group, the largest
number appear to have been in the skilled and semi-skilled trades.
There were a few foremen listed and several service workers, such as
cooks, firemen, etc. Only about half a dozen persons reported occupa-
tions normally considered to be common labor.
It might be added here that according to another question on
the schedule 51 of the 140 principal wage earners, or 36 per cent of
the total, were self employed before retirement. One of the important
facets of this statistic is that self-employed persons often are able
to go through the retirement process gradually, which may make for an
easier adjustment than would an abrupt stoppage of work.
The industry groups reported for the principal wage earners at
the time of retirement have been classified according to the United
States Census breakdown, in Table 8. It may be noted that wholesale
and retail trade is the most important category, with 20.8 per cent of
INDUSTRY GROUP DISTRIBUTION OF OCCUPATIONS OF
WAGE EARNERS, WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Industry Group Frequency Percentage
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
Business and Repair Services
Professional and Related
the 140 wage earners. This is followed by Personal Services, construc-
tion work, and government work, and manufacturing, in that order.
Some similarities are seen when this tabulation is compared
with the same type of classification for the total labor force in West
Palm Beach in 1940, which was discussed in Chapter III. In both cases,
wholesale and retail trade and domestic service are the dominant Indus-
tries, though this is not as pronounced with the sample group. Two
notable differences between the groups are the greater proportion of
those in the sample who were engaged in manufacturing, and in govern-
ment work, as compared to the total West Palm Beach labor force a
decade ago. These variations probably reflect the different industry
group array for those wage earners included in the sample who spent
their working lives outside of West Palm Beach. Generalizations, how-
ever, are risky, due among other things, to the different age and sex
distribution of the two groups.
The reasons why people retire Is of paramount consideration In
the study of this process. Retirement is a change not always taken
voluntarily. In fact, it is common knowledge that many retired people
would continue work Indefinitely if they had their choice. Some factor
or combination of factors then, has forced these persons to leave
active working life.
Voluntary retirement was certainly not usual for the West Palm
Beach sample group. The reasons given for the retirement of principal
wage earners from their occupations as tabulated in Table 9, all indi-
cated involuntary retirement except one. This, the "tired of working*
REASONS FOR THE RETIREMENT OF PRINCIPAL WAGE EARNERS,.
WEST PALM BEACH,.1951
Reason Frequency Percentage
Reached Compulsory Retirement Age 8 5.7
Forced Out of Business, or Lost Job 9 6.4
Poor Health or Physical Disability 68 48.7
Retired Due to Needs of Family Member 8 5.7
Entered Retirement Status on Husband's
Death 22 15.7
Tired of Working 9 6.4
Other and Not Specified 15 10.7
Never Worked I 0.7
category, contains only nine persons, to make up 6.4 per cent of the
principal wage earners. Actually II of the "other and not specified"
group probably also retired voluntarily increasing the percentage who
were able to make this choice to 14.3.
Health appears to be the main factor causing forced retirement,
according to the table. It is seen that almost half of the wage earners
gave some reason connected with physical infirmities. This group in-
cludes those forced to retire due to chronic illnesses or disabilities,
as well as a number whose faculties had become impaired so as to pre-
vent them from carrying on their occupations*
Much has been written concerning the policies of employers
toward older workers. It has been pointed out that age is often a
poor index of ability in later maturity. For this reason, the desira-
bility of the practice of forced retirement at an arbitrary age has been
Although this practice has received much attention, it
evidently was a cause of retirement for only a small group of wage
earners connected with the sample group. Only eight of these persons,
comprising 5.7 per cent of the total of 140, were reported to have been
required to stop work by their employers due to reaching an arbitrary
Other economic reasons were central in forcing the retirement
Otto Pollak, Social Adjustment in Old Age, New Yorks Social
Science Research Council, 1948, 105-106.
of nine persons in the sample. Six of these were operating their own
businesses and felt more or less forced to retire when these failed or
ran into difficulties. The other three lost their jobs for one reason
or another, and were unable to obtain new work because of their advanced
Another eight persons, making about 6 per cent of the total,
retired in order to give assistance to some member of the family.
Several, for Instance, terminated their main lifetime occupations In
order to move south for the health of their wives.
Twenty-two men who died while working are included in the wage
earner group, because this event caused their wives, who are members
of the sample, to enter retirement status. This segment makes up 23
per cent of the 140 wage earners.
A brief look at the persons in the sample who were not princi-
pal wage earners is desirable. This group consists of 100 females, as
it will be remembered that all 84 of the men in the sample were con-
sidered principal wage earners, along with 18 women.
Most of the 100 women were and still are to some extent engaged
in their own home house-work. Thus retirement for them did not mean an
end of a main lifetime occupation, It will be recognized, however,
that retirement should nevertheless have marked important life changes
of most of these persons. This would certainly be true of the 22 women
of the group of 100 who were forced to enter this status on the death
of their spouses. Most of the other 78 would have had to share, or at
least feel the indirect influence, of the impact of this process upon
their husbands. In addition, changes in such things as social status
and income due to retirement would naturally affect whole families,
including the members of this group.
In this chapter, some facts have been presented which relate
to the actual retirement of the group under investigation. Approxi-
mately one-half of the total West Palm Beach group have retired since
1945, and about three-fourths since 1940. The principal wage earners
of the families of retired people living in the city previously were
engaged'in a wide variety of occupations, about equally divided be-
tween the "white collar" and the "trade and labor" groups. Evidently,
a large number of them were small business men, in clerical and sales
work, or in the skilled and semi-skilled trades, with a few professional
men and some common laborers included in the group.
Almost all of these principal wage earners were forced to leave
their main lifetime occupations against their wills. Health was the
factor which led most of these persons into involuntary retirement.
Very few were forced to leave their jobs due to reaching a compulsory
retirement age set by their employers. Some of the widows living in the
city many be considered to have entered the retired status at the death
of their husbands.
Retirement should have marked important life changes for all
the members of the retired group, including those who were not princi-
pal wage earners at that time*
Migration is a phenomenon of great social significance. The
influx of persons from one or many cultural backgrounds can have a
tremendous effect upon the social processes and structure of a given
society, as well as upon Its population size and composition.
In Chapter III the importance of migration to the city of
West Palm Beach was emphasized as the main cause of its remarkable
growth, and an influencing factor in other of the city's characteristics.
It was thus not surprising to note in the following chapter that all
but one of the persons contained in the sample moved to this city some
time after his birth.
The present discussion, however, is focused mainly upon a
special type of migration, which has become really important on a
national scale only within the past two decades. This is the movement
of persons, after their retirement, to a new permanent home. As was
stated in the introduction, the recognition of the Importance of the
recent migration of retired persons Into Florida was one of the salient
reasons for carrying out this study.
The results of the sample survey indicate that a large propor-
tion of the retired people in West Palm Beach moved to that city after
their retirement. This was true of 131 or 65 per cent of the total
sample group. Further research, however, may show conclusively that
this proportion is low as compared to several other Florida cities. It
will be remembered that the age data in Chapter III seemed to indicate
that West Palm Beach does not have as great a proportion of older per-
sons as some other Florida cities. This is especially true in compar-
ing West Palm Beach to St. Petersburg, according to that analysis.
Further evidence is revealed in the fact that 91 per cent of the sample
in the survey of St. Petersburg's retired people spent their working
years in some other area*I
A comparison of the approximate time that the retired members
of the sample moved to West Palm Beach is given in Table 10. In this
tabulation the data are further subdivided to show the number who were
retired at the time of migration to the city and the number retiring
subsequently to the migration. It is seen that some persons who moved
to this city before their retirement did so as early as 1910, while
others of this segment migrated within the five year period prior to
the survey. The largest number of the group, however, arrived in the
city early in their working lives, with almost one-half coming in the
period 1916 to 1925. It is interesting to note that these years
closely correspond to the time of the city's greatest growth.
By contrast, most of the individuals coming to West Palm
Beach after their retirement did so within recent years. Seventy-nine
of the 131 persons in the segment, comprising 60 per cent of the total,
moved to the Florida city between 1946 and 1950. Only ten per cent of
lrving L. Webber, The Retired Population of St. Petersburg
It's Characteristics and Social Situation, Tallahassees Florida State
Improvement Commission, 1951, p. 26.
NUMBER OF YEARS WHICH MEMBERS OF THE TOTAL SAMPLE LIVED IN
WEST PALM BEACH, BY RESIDENCE BEFORE RETIREMENT,
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Lived in Lived Elsewhere
Total West Palm Beach Before
Years Before Retirement Retirement
Per- Per- Per-
Number centage Number centage Number centage
0- 4 85 42.1 6 8.4 79 60,3
5- 9 27 13.4 2 2.8 25 19.1
10 14 20 9.9 5 7.0 15 11.5
15 19 II 5.4 3 4.2 8 6.1
20 24 8 4.0 6 8.4 2 1.5
25 29 25 12.4 23 32.4 2 1.5
30 34 10 4.9 10 142 --
35 39 7 3.5 7 9.8 -
40 up 6 3.0 6 8.5 -
tained 3 1.4 3 4.2 --
TOTAL 202 100.0 71 100.0 131 100.0
the post-retirement migrants settled in West Palm Beach before 1936*
While mortality rates would have to be considered before
definite conclusions could be made, these data Indicate that the move-
ment of people already retired into West Palm Beach is taking place at
an increasing rate.
Knowledge about the places which the 202 retired persons in the
total sample lived before they retired is essential for an understand-
ing of post-retirement migration. The map which is Figure 5 gives
this Information by states* Seventy one persons, making up 35 per cent
of the total group, lived in West Palm Beach before retirement, while
13 others lived elsewhere in Florida. The remaining 118 persons moved
from another state to take up permanent residence in the city under
examination. New York, with 27, was the previous home of the greatest
number of persons in the sample, followed by Pennsylvania and Illinois,
both of which contained 15 persons, and Florida. Massachusetts is
next with eight persons reporting it as the state they lived in
before retirement, followed by New Jersey with seven and Connecticut
with six. Ohio was the previous residence of five of the group, while
each of 13 other states, all but two of which are east of the Mississippi,
was the home of three, two, or one sample member during his working
years. Canada is the only foreign country represented, with one person
in the sample listing it as his place of residence before retirement.
When tabulated according to Odum's Regions, these data show
that over half of the persons who migrated after their retirement came
from the northeast.2 A little over 20 per cent of these 131 persons
came from all parts of the southeast except West Palm Beach, with about
the same proportion of the individuals in this segment reporting that
they lived in one of the middle states before the principal wage earner
of their family ceased work.
While knowing the state and region in which the sample group
lived before retirement is very important in understanding the retired
population of West Palm Beach a consideration of the type of area in
which the person previously resided is of equal significance. The
difference between rural and urban life, and between urban life in
cities of different sizes, is at least as great as general regional
and state variations in influencing the individual personality.
In recognition of this, Table II was made, in which the places
of residence before retirement, of the 131 persons living outside of
West Palm Beach at that time, are tabulated according to their popu-
lation size in 1940. A notable point, immediately evident from the
table, is that almost all of the sample evidently spent their working
lives in urban areas, that is, incorporated places of more than 2,500
persons. Only seven of the 131 persons reported having lived in
smaller villages or in the open country. Of the urban residents, it
is seen that most lived in the great metropolitan centers of our nation.
A map delineating these regions will be found in the appendix.
Taken from Howard W. Odum, Southern Regions of the United States,
Chapel Hills TlHUniversity of North Carolina Press, 1936, p. 246.
SIZE OF COMMUNITY OF PREVIOUS RESIDENCE, FOR THOSE IN THE TOTAL SAMPLE
WHO MOVED TO WEST PALM BEACH AFTER RETIREMENT,
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Size of Community
(Number of Inhabitants, 1940) Frequency Percentage
(Open country and villages with
less than 2,500 Inhabitants) 7 5.3
2,500 to 5,000 8 6.1
5,000 to 10,000 11 8.4
10,000 to 25,000 14 10.7
25,000 to 50,000 6 4.6
50,000 to 100,000 10 7.6
100,000 to 250,000 8 6.1
250,000 to 500,000 5 3.8
500,000 to 1,000,000 9 6.9
1,000,000 to 4,000,000 20 15.2
New York City and Environs 27 20.6
Not Ascertained 6 4.6
Thus the largest single group of all, 27 persons, comprising,
incidentally, all of the persons who gave New York as their state of
previous residence, lived in or around New York City. This is 20 per
cent of the post-retirement segment, while another 15 per cent reported
having lived in other cities with greater than 1,000,000 population,
including Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Taken together, about
60 per cent of the segment resided in urban centers larger than West
Palm Beach before they retired.
Presumably, economic opportunity would be one of the main
factors attracting persons to West Palm Beach before their retirement.
The reasons, however, compelling persons of later years to make such
a change, often involving a move of hundreds of miles, adjusting to a
new environment, and developing a complete new set of social relation-
ships, demands close examination.
Superficially it might appear that climate and recreational
opportunities would be primary reasons. Yet, many cities in Florida
offer these. One of the purposes of this survey was to try to get at
the reasons for coming to West Palm Beach, as given by the retired
people themselves. To accomplish this several "open" questions were
asked, and an effort made to record the exact answers of the respondents.
The results were not entirely satisfactory, as it was difficult to get
many persons to express themselves adequately, and there was no
assurance that everyone correctly stated the reasons for his move. Then
too, many persons no doubt made the change for a number of reasons which
would be difficult if not impossible for them to evaluate on short
notice. The answers which were given, however, do tell a great deal.
One of the most surprising things to come out of the survey
was that for fully one-third of the post-retirement migrants, the attrac-
tion of Florida's climate and fame as a resort had little effect on their
move* These persons stated that they left their previous home after
retirement in order to be near or live with children or relatives al-
ready living in West Palm Beach. Thus the reason for the movement of
this group to Florida and to West Palm Beach was the same. It should
be brought to mind, however, that the relatives of these persons may
themselves have been attracted to the state by its mild weather and
Climate appeared to be pre-eminent reason for the migration to
Florida of the other two-thirds of the segment coming to West Palm
Beach after retirement. For fifteen persons in this group, the health
value of a moderate climate motivated the move.
A number of factors appeared to encourage the settlement in
West Palm Beach, rather than any other Florida city, of those migrants
not coming to be with relatives. About one In three of these 88 per-
sons stated that he had been to West Palm Beach as a winter visitor
before raking up permanent residence there. A few persons, before
settling after retirement, traveled over Florida and found West Palm
Beach to be more to their liking than any other place. Four persons
were attracted to the city by friends already living there. Most of
the others in the group were unable to give a specific reason for mov-
ing to the city under examination. This in itself may be significant
In indicating that chance factors prevailed in some cases.
The city of West Palm Beach evidently is doing very little to
try to attract retired persons. Several undertakings of the Chamber
of Commerce, however, may be having at least an indirect effect on the
rate of migration of this group. Thus, to help encourage tourists,
this organization places advertisements in many leading magazines and
northern newspapers. These probably attract the attention of retired
people In other areas, as well as potential tourists, some of whom,
the survey has shown, would eventually retire to the city.
Another activity of the Chamber of Commerce, which may encour-
age the movement of retired persons into the city is that of answering
their written inquiries. Ten such letters, for instance, were re-
ceived and answered between June I and July 15, 1951. Parts of some
of these are reproduced in the chapter on the housing situation, for,
without exception, they were requests for information on housing in the
city. It would appear significant that prospective migrants would not
be interested in getting Information from the Chamber of Commerce on
such things as cultural advantages, recreational facilities, etc.,
offered by the city. This seems to indicate that for many migrants,
climate is the main factor motivating them to come to Florida, while
the selection of a specific city depends more on economic and housing
considerations than upon activities or other advantages offered there.
Several facts have been brought out in this study of migration.
The information obtained strongly indicates that West Palm Beach
functions less as a retirement center than do many Florida cities.
Nevertheless, at least 65 per cent of the retired group in this
community migrated to the city after their retirement. Sample data,
backed by census analyses for the state as a whole, seem to show that
aged and retired persons are moving to the city at an increasing
rate. Most of the migrants now in the city, moreover, came within the
last five years, and largely from urban areas in the northeastern part
of the United States. Fully 60 per cent of the post-retirement mi-
grants in the sample group came from cities which were larger than
West Palm Beach in 1940.
Approximately one-third of the persons who migrated to West
Palm Beach since their retirement did so to live with or to be near
relatives. Climate is the main factor which motivated the most of
others to Florida, while the choice of a specific city depended for
them upon a number of things. About one-third of this segment chose
West Palm Beach on the basis of their experiences as winter visitors,
while several traveled over Florida before deciding to settle in this
community. Economic and housing considerations probably were important
also for many of these persons in the selection of a new city in which
HOUSING, ECONOMIC AND HEALTH STATUS
THE HOUSING SITUATION
The housing situation of persons who are retired would be
expected to have a great effect on the well-being of these individuals,
while at the same time reflecting their general economic and social
The first section of these chapter considers the retired people
of the sample as a group; concentrating on their living arrangement
and their attitudes pertaining to some aspects of housing* The next
part focuses upon the dwelling units of the sample, covering a distri-
bution of the kind of units included, the number of persons in each,
and the tenure and approximate value of those headed by retired persons.
In the last section the wants and needs of prospective home
owners, who are retired and plan to settle in West Palm Beach, are
In the retirement years, many persons are forced to change their
living arrangements. With advancing age, more and more married couples
are separated by death, and the surviving spouse is most often faced
with either living alone or moving into the home of one of the
children. Often too, infirmities connected with aging demand that a
retired person should seek to obtain special care in an institution
or in the home of a relative. These changes are usually disruptive to
say the least, and many times are the center of serious adjustment
The living arrangements for all the persons In the West Palm
Beach sample are tabulated in Table 12. Apparently almost one-half of
this group has had to make some change In this aspect of their lives.
The marital status classification given in Chapter III Indicates that
96 per cent of the sample were married at one time. Yet, when the
survey was taken, only 58 per cent, or 117, of the persons in the total
group were still living with a spouse.
Of these 117 Individuals, 107 were people living with the
spouse only. The other ten were five married couples, who lived with
their children. Of the latter group, three couples had actually
changed their living arrangement, as they were living in homes headed
by a son or a son-in-law. Another 28 persons according to the Table,
who constituted 13.8 per cent of the total, were widows or widowers
also living in the homes of their children. Thirty-one persons or
about 15 per cent of the total sample lived alone when the survey was
taken, while eight lived with one other retired person.
Eighteen members of the sample were found to be living under
various other living arrangements. These included a married couple
and a retired boarder in the same dwelling unit, and retired persons
living with their nieces, nephews, or other persons still actively
Differences by sex in living arrangement were caused mainly
by the higher proportion of married men than women in the sample. Thus
a larger percentage of women than men live alone, or with their children,
and a smaller percentage of this sex live with a spouse.
OF MEMBERS OF THE TOTAL SAMPLE, BY SEX
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total Male Female
Living Arrangements Per- Per- Per
Number centage Number centage Number centage
Lives Alone 31 15.3 8 9.5 23 19.5
Lives with Children 28 13.8 7 8.3 21 17.7
Lives only with Spouse 107 53.0 55 65.5 52 44.2
Lives with Spouse and
Children 10 5.0 5 5.9 5 4.2
Lives with other Retired
Persons 8 4.0 3 3.6 5 4.2
Other Living Arrangement 18 8.9 6 7.2 12 10.2
TOTAL 202 100.0 84 100.0 118 100.0
An attempt was made to find out how the members of the sample
felt about their housing conditions. All respondents, that is members
of the short sample, were asked whether or not they considered their
present living quarters to be satisfactory for their needs. The re-
suits, tabulated in Table 13, seem to show that most of this group
answered the question in the affirmative, while 13.5 per cent replied
they were not satisfied, and four persons, or 2.9 per cent did not
know. This question was not answered by four others. Differences
by sex, as shown In the table, indicate that a larger proportion of the
females queried are dissatisfied as compared to the males. This varia-
tion, however, does not appear to be significant.
It was impossible to know whether or not the respondents
answered this question truthfully. In the course of making most of
the interviews, however, the writer got the feeling that "resigned to"
rather than truly "satisfied with" would more adequately describe the
feelings of a number of the respondents with regard to their living
A question which has caused some speculation is whether or not
retired persons prefer to live near individuals their own age. In try-
ing to get some objective information on this matter, members of the
short sample were asked whether or not they thought retired people were
happier living in a neighborhood made up mostly of middle aged and older
people. The replies which they gave are presented in Table 14. They
are rather inconclusive, due to the large "don't know" category. Thus,
for the total group, while almost twice as many persons said yes as no,
ATTITUDES OF PERSONS IN THE SHORT SAMPLE TOWARDS LIVING QUARTERS,
BY SEX, WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Total Male Female
Attitudes Per- Per- e Per-
Number centage Number centage Number centage
Satisfied 113 80.7 57 83.8 56 77.8
Not Satisfied 19 13.5 6 8.8 13 18.1
Don't Know 4 2.9 2 2*9 2 2.8
Not Ascertained 4 2.9 3 4.5 1 1.3
TOTAL 140 100.0 68 100.0 72 100.0
ATTITUDES OF PERSONS IN THE SHORT SAMPLE TOWARDS LIVING IN A NEIGHBORHOOD
OF OLDER PEOPLE, BY SEX, WEST PALM BEACH, 1952
TotaI Male Fewae
Attitudes Per- Per- Per-
Number centage Number centage Number centage
Yes 55 39.2 32 47.1 23 31.9
No 32 22.9 15 22.1 17 23.7
Don't Know 46 32.9 19 27.9 27 37.4
Not Ascertained 7 5.0 2 2.9 5 7.0
TOTAL 140 100.0 68 100.0 72 100.0
one person In three said that he did not know. There is considerable
difference by sex In the "yes" and'tUon't know" categories, with fewer
women saying yes and more answering that they did not know than was
true for the men.
One reason for the high occurance of "don't know" answers to
this question is that many of the respondents, particularly in the
older age groups, had difficulty in understanding the query because it
was somewhat hypothetical. Another possible reason could stem from
the urban background of many members of this group. A number of the
persons in the sample, as was demonstrated in the chapter on migration,
spent their working years in large cities, where neighboring is usually
at a minimum. Some of these people might have felt that it made little
difference who one's neighbors were, so long as they were unobtrusive.
Thus they probably would have had no opinion on the question. A real
estate salesman, interviewed to get background material on housing,
stated that he had never had a retired client Include, in his speciff-
cations for a future home, that it should be in a neighborhood already
containing people of advanced ages.
It appears, then, that at least half of the members of the
short sample group do not necessarily feel that it Is desirable for
retired persons to live in neighborhoods made up mostly of people who
are close to their own age.
The health and welfare of a group of people is directly depend-
ent upon adequate housing facilities. Information on the quality of
their dwelling units is, In addition, a fair index of economic status.
For the 202 retired persons about which information was ob-
tained in the West Palm Beach survey, there were 134 separate house-
holds, or dwelling units. Almost all of these, 116, were individual
houses. Eight of the remainder were single or duplex apartments, six
were housed in multiple apartment houses, three were in trailers, and
one was in a rooming house.
While no objective observations were made, the impression of
the writer during the course of the interviewing was that the housing
for the West Palm Beach sample was, on the whole, adequate. Only a
few of the dwelling units appeared to be delapidated, and not many of
them were observed to be noticeably in need of repair. On the other
hand, there were few houses in the luxury class, and almost all of them
must have been at least 10 years old.
Taken as a group, these units did not appear to be overcrowded.
At any rate the average number of persons reported, 2.3 per unit, is
low. Table 15 gives a distribution of the 134 households in the sample
by the number of persons living in each. This tabulation shows that
exactly one-half of the units housed two persons. The next largest
number, 23 per cent of the total, were units in which only one person
lived. The other quarter of the dwelling places, each of which housed
more than two persons, were mostly those in which members of the sample
lived with the families of younger relatives.
The legal rights which people have to their dwellings is basic
to any consideration of housing. A grouping of the sample dwellings
by tenure shows that 36, or more than one in four of them, are owned or
SIZES OF FAMILIES IN SAMPLE HOUSEHOLDS, WEST
PALM BEACH, 1951
Number of Persons Frequency Percentage
I 31 23.1
2 67 50.0
3 15 11.2
4 II 8.2
5 6 4.5
6 or more 4 3.0
TOTAL HOUSEHOLDS 134 100.0
rented by someone who is not retired. It will be remembered that about
20 per cent of the sample were found to be living with their children.
Most of these homes were under the jurisdiction of the offspring
rather than the retired person.
By far the majority of the 98 retired persons who were heads
of households owned their homes. Eighty-six persons, making up 88
per cent of this segment said that they were home owners, with the
other twelve heads reported as renters.
The dwelling units referred to by these 98 persons, on an
average, were rather modest. Home owners in the group were asked to
give the approximate value of their dwellings, and the median value of
these reports was $10,000. A distribution of the values of homes
owned by retired persons is given in Table 16. It is seen that more
dwellings were reported in the $10,000-$14,000 range than in any other
group interval. Seven of the 86 houses were valued by their owners
at less than $5,000, while the most expensive dwelling was listed at
Of the residents for the 12 dwelling units which were rented,
five refused to give the amount of their monthly rental. The seven
reported values were somewhat low, ranging from $12 to $60 per month.
It was stated in the chapter on migration that many of the
inquiries which the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce received from
retired people interested In moving to the city concern housing. The
ten letters which were received between June I and July 15, 1951, were
made available for this study. An examination of some of these letters
APPROXIMATE VALUES OF HQCES OWNED BY RETIRED PERSONS IN THE TOTAL
SAMPLE, WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Va I ue Frequency Percentage
Under $5,000 7 8.9
$5,000 to $9,999 23 29.1
$10,000 to $14,999 25 31.6
$15,000 to $19,999 14 17.7
$20,000 and up 10 12.7
TOTAL 79 100.0
should give insight into the housing needs of prospective migrants who
Most of the persons who wrote in during this time were Inter-
ested In whether or not a small house would be available within their
means. This was usually one selling for about $10,000 or renting for
about $50 per month. One of the letters in this group was a little
more specific. A part of it is quoted here
I have in mind a single-story dwelling, consisting of,
say, a large combination living and dining room, one large
bed room, a fairly large kitchen capable of accommodating
modern labor saving devices and utilities, together with
another medium-sized chamber, and, of course, a bath-room.
A double garage would be desirable. The lot need not be
large, say 85 by perhaps 150. A preferred location would
be beyond the city's congestion and yet not so remote as to
make ordinary shopping a hardship. I would like to get all
this for about $10,000. I realize that this is probably
one-half of what I would pay for a similar layout up here,
and, therefore, my request, or hopes, may be utterly un-
reasonable. I don't know and that is why I am writing to
It may be that this man's desires concerning house location
are shared by others. In carrying out the survey, It was noted that
the sample blocks with the heaviest concentration of retired persons
were located near suburban shopping centers*
Another letter asked about the possibilities of getting invest-
I expect to retire in about two or three years, and
my sister and I are considering West Palm Beach. We
expect to visit there in August of this year, with the
prospect of looking around for something to purchase,
which will include living quarters for ourselves, and one
or two small renting units, at a moderate price. .
One person probably desired to supplement his income by part-time
I am interested in a place with three to five acres
of within two to five miles of the city limits. .
To obtain more complete information on the housing needs and
wants of retired people who migrate to West Palm Beach, the head of
one of the largest real estate firms in town was interviewed, along
with one of his salesmen.
According to this real estate broker, the number of retired
persons purchasing homes in West Palm Beach has been increasing over
the past few years*
Many of these people do not have anything special in mind
before buying, though most seem to prefer a two bed-room ground-floor
bungalow. He added that every once in a while a retired person will
request a place suitable for some part-time farming.
A few retired persons are interested In buying small businesses
for investment purposes, such as bars, restaurants, and women's apparel
stores, he stated* Those with more money sometimes want to get a
motor court or apartment house. Often the Investment property in which
they are interested is on the outskirts, or off the main highways,
where land values are not so high.
The salesman who was interviewed estimated that about 18 per
cent of the residential property which he had sold, during the 12 month
period prior to the survey, was to retired persons. He doubts if this
percentage has changed much over the years. He also noted that close
to five per cent of the investment property which he had sold during
the same period was to retired people wishing to supplement their
He agreed with his employer in saying that members of the
retired group generally prefer two bedroom bungalows of one story.
About 90 per cent of his retired customers buy property valued at
under $10,000. In addition, he has found that most of these people
do not prefer the newer houses, and usually want a place already
furnished, so that they can move in immediately.
The findings of this chapter have shown that the housing situa-
tion for the retired people of West Palm Beach is about is satisfactory
as could be expected for a general population group. Approximately
every other one of these retired individuals is still living with
spouse only, while one in six is living alone and one in five with a
relative. Answers to attitude questions in the survey schedule indi-
cated that most of the members of this retired group are not actively
dissatisfied with their housing, and at least one-half of them do not
care whether or not other older people live in their own neighborhood.
The dwellings, on the whole, are not overcrowded* More than
one-fourth of the households in which retired persons live are headed
by individuals who are still working. Almost all of the retired per-
sons maintaining their own homes are owners, rather than renters. The
value of these homes are probably rather modest on an average, with the
median value reported for the sample at $10,000.
Retired persons contemplating migration to West Palm Beach
usually desire to buy two bed-room, one-story houses valued at about
$10,000, though some want investment property, or land suitable for
Physical needs must be met as long as life continues. Provid-
ing economic security, after working years are over, is thus the basic
problem to be faced upon retirement.
Only indirect information was obtained on the economic status
of the West Palm Beach sample group. No question on income was in-
cluded, as It was felt that non-response would be high, giving biased
results for the total group. Data on occupation before retirement,
and type of housing, however, which have been discussed In previous
chapters, can give clues to the economic level of the group. This in-
formation, it will be remembered, Indicated that there were few people
of wealth In the sample. While a number of persons may be found in the
lower levels of income, as inferred from these Indices, the majority of
the people appeared to be of moderate means. Thus, skilled labor and
clerical and sales work predominated the occupational classification,
while the median value of the 86 homes owned by retired people in the
sample was $10,000.
One question was included in the schedule, which in some respects
is more valuable than direct information on income* It is well recog-
nized that the level of living, or income of a person does not ade-
quately reflect his adjustment to economic problems unless it is related
to his standard of living; that is, the quantity and type of goods and
services to which he is accustomed. Thus, two individuals, receiving
the same income, might have completely opposite views on its adequacy.
In an effort to get at this relationship respondents were asked the
questions "How do you feel about your income as compared to your
needs? Comfortable Enough to get along?, or, Can't make ends meet?"
Table 17 presents the results of this query. Of the 140 members
of the short sample, 31, or 22 per cent stated that they were comforta-
ble, 63 (45 per cent) said that they had enough to get along, while
38 (or 27 per cent) could not make ends meet. An answer to this
question was not obtained from eight members of the group. From this
it is seen that at least one member of one family group out of four in
the total sample felt that he was faced with a serious economic
To get an idea of the financial burden carried by the retired
heads of households, a question was asked to determine the number of
persons dependent upon this group. This information is given in Table
18. It is immediately seen that 60 per cent of the retired heads had
no one dependent upon them. As would be expected, the difference by
sex here is marked. Thus, only 44 per cent of the males had no
dependents, as compared to 83 per cent of the females*
There was a total of 54 persons who were classified as being to
some extent dependent upon the male retired heads. Of these, 44 were
wives of members of this segment.l The other ten for the male heads
along with all twelve persons dependent upon female heads were related
The other 16 married women in the sample were for various rea-
sons not reported as being dependent upon their husbands.
ATTITUDES OF PERSONS IN THE SHORT SAMPLE TOWARDS
WEST PALM BEACH, 1951
Attitudes Number Percentage
Comfortable 31 22.2
Enough to Get Along 63 45.0
Can't Make Ends Meet 38 27.1
Not Ascertained 8 5.7
TOTAL 140 100.0