Many people have lived in the same house for many years, and are well acquainted with neighbors, local businesses and attractions. There is a certain comfort and security in knowing where everything is and how to most efficiently get where you want to go. The additions and improvements that have been made to your house and surroundings over the years generally mean you have most of the things you are looking for. Aging in place is generally the default course of action for retirees.
But retirement can also be a time to consider the possibility of moving to a new location. As you move into retirement, it is not uncommon to at least contemplate the possibility of moving elsewhere. This could be your chance to move to a smaller place that costs less to maintain, or you may want to join a community that is near the beach, mountains or other natural attractions. Perhaps you are ready to leave a busy populated area and try out a slower pace in an out-of-the-way suburb somewhere.
My wife and I are currently in the consideration stage. We are searching for a community with a new and exciting feel where we could retire when we are ready. Here are some important variables we are including in our relocation research:
Hospitals and doctors. Having been in the San Francisco Bay area for the past thirty years we are very comfortable with our primary care physician, local hospitals and overall health care. When we make the move we will want to research our options in our new neighborhood. We are looking into proximity to the nearest hospital, the response time we can hope for in an emergency, access to primary care physicians and where we will have to go for specialized treatment if needed. Since we will likely become more familiar with our doctors as we progress into retirement, developing a comfortable and trusting relationship is important.
Local amenities. Ideally we would like to be able to walk to the downtown for our morning coffee or early evening meal. The walking aspect will allow us to get a bit of exercise while running errands. In addition, we would like to be reasonably close to a movie theater, local grocery store, pharmacy, library, local park, pub and bakery. Once we become locals in our new community, we look forward to being recognized and greeted when we frequent those establishments. We would also like to be within reasonable driving distance to other amenities, including the ability to attend plays, the symphony and musical venues. And since we plan on continuing our travel adventures, we will want an airport that is not too far away.
Good neighbors. After living so many years in the same area, we have established close relationships with neighbors. We watch out for each other when traveling and share a moment when passing on the street. A new location will require us to start all over again, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. This is a chance to broaden our base of friends and meet others with wider interests and experiences. I find one helpful way to get a feel for the area is to spend some time walking the downtown, talking with the various store owners and residents to get an honest feel for the area. I ask about the weather, local events, local points of interest, what they do for fun and if they are a red or white wine drinker (wine is one of my hobbies). I have found most people to be very willing to talk honestly and at length about the place they call home.
Climate. My wife thrives when the temperature is on the warmer side, and I tend to like the weather to be a little bit hot. Neither of us is much of a snow fan, but I am a lover of the ocean. So we are looking for someplace that is a short drive to the waves while residing in a warmer zone away from the ocean. If you are part of a couple, you ideally want to end up where both of you will be comfortable and happy.
Public transportation. It’s convenient to have the option to use public transportation if you no longer want to drive. Although the U.S. is behind the services available in many other developed countries, bullet trains and rapid transit services are available in some areas. Community buses and local shuttles can also make getting where you want to go a bit easier.
Cost of living. The decision to relocate can be driven by the desire to live in a more affordable area. State and local taxes can differ significantly depending on where you reside. Property taxes can take a bite out of savings in some places, while in other areas they are much lower. Utilities, water and even garbage rates can differ significantly from community to community. Where you live can greatly impact your budget, especially if you are living on a fixed income, as is the case for most seniors.
Proximity to what you like best. The ocean is magical to me. No matter where we might eventually move, I want to be near enough to the waves so we are able to visit on a regular basis. If you are a skier, you may want to insure you are near the snowy peaks where you find your enjoyment. A fisherman will be happiest near a lake or stream where he can regularly wet his line. If you cannot live without the opera or symphony, you may need to be near a more populated area where such events are held. Now that you are no longer tied to a job, you have the freedom to investigate off-the-beaten-path locations that fit what you like best.
Your new digs. You will have some flexibility in the specifics of your new house. Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want, and if you prefer one story or two. Also consider how much land you want around the home, whether you want a game room or porch swing and the amenities you require in a kitchen. Things are different at this stage in life because you no longer must board children (ideally) and have more flexibility to live in the surroundings you like best.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.