Five years ago, Lois and Ray Siegelman decided to leave their spacious four-bedroom Colonial home in Concord to start anew in a three-bedroom Charlestown condo with stunning views of Boston Harbor
In doing so, the Siegelmans gave up space for convenience, and suburban quiet and familiarity for adventure and city living. And now they have followers.
"People thought we were pioneers,'' Ray Siegelman, 67, said of his friends and former neighbors from Concord. "Now there are a whole bunch of folks who have moved to Charlestown or the North End."
And more to come, apparently. Linda and Dennis Chateauneuf followed the Siegelmans, moving into a two-bedroom in Charlestown last month from a 5,200-square-foot house in Concord. Now every time Chateauneufs see friends from Concord, Linda said, they get peppered with questions about the move.
"I do think we are kind of the tip of the iceberg,'' she said, about new arrivals.
So many have moved into the city from the Concord area that they have started an "expat" group of former suburbanites — the name an insider tribute to the Concord-Carlisle High School Patriots sports teams.
While the vast majority of baby boomers choose to stay put, the Siegelmans and their friends are joining the tens of thousands people, old and young, who are reversing the urban flight that drained Boston's population in the last half of the 20th century; in the last decade Boston's population increased by 28,000, including many boomers.
Many don't need the big suburban home once the kids move out. They are tired of shoveling snow and driving to restaurants and shopping malls; some are even following their adult children into the city seeking adventure.
"People like the idea of living more densely,'' said Barry Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. "As we get older, people don't want to get into a car every time they need a bottle of milk."
The Siegelmans decided to move to Boston in 2007 when their only daughter was graduating from Boston University. Lois Siegelman grew up in Dorchester and wanted to get back to city living.
They sold their Concord home for $840,000 and purchased a $1 million condominium on Constellation Wharf in Charlestown, realizing Lois's dream of living by the water.
And before moving, they opened up their garage and invited neighbors to take what they needed: lawn furniture and lawn care equipment.
"You accumulate so much you don't really need,'' said Lois Siegelman, who has become active in her new community as president of the nonprofit civic organization, Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard. Now, she said, "I love waking up to the sound of someone else shoveling."
Linda Chateauneuf recalled a "cleansing" feeling from getting rid of the materials the couple had collected over 16 years of suburban living.
Still new to the city, however, there are some things she misses from her suburban life. For one, Chateauneuf can't just send her two dogs outside; now she has to walk them. Her car is parked 10 minutes away, not conveniently by her house. And she's adjusting to the city sounds — blaring sirens and the sound of neighbors chattering outside late at night.
In fact, the couple is renting their home this year to give themselves leeway to return to Concord if they find the city isn't for them. So far, Chateauneuf is feeling confident they will stay.
"Overall it is definitely more pro than con,'' she said.
Also joining the group are Laurie and John Cadigan, both in their mid 50s, who moved last month from a Colonial in Concord to a two-bedroom on Constellation Wharf. She has three children in their 20s and one of them is still living with them, enjoying free rent in the city.
Cadigan, who runs a real estate company in Concord, said she's thrilled about the change. Although she misses the space in her house, she loves the amenities of city living.
"When you get older, you want to have a glass of chardonnay and walk home,'' she said.
"Baby boomers are not ready to put their feet up and watch TV every night."
Cadigan said she's getting more exercise now and feels physically better. She walks her golden retriever every morning along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
"Every year you get younger being in the city. You keep active. It is very invigorating,'' she said. Although, the temptations also can be greater, she said. "I have to stay away from the pasta and the pastries in the North End."