One question most Boomers ask ourselves is where do we want to live for the rest of our lives? Should we stay or should we go? If we do decide to move from the home where we raised our kids, or, if we didnt have kids, where we lived for the last 20 or 30 years, should we move to a warmer climate, to someplace less expensive, to another city, to a 50+ age-restricted community, or even to another country?
With life expectancy increasing into the 70s and 80s, and an ever-increasing number of the population even living into their 90s and beyond, where to live after 50 is no longer an academic question. It might be where youll be spending another few decades.
I spoke with a number of experts as well as Boomers and others who have made dramatic moves, and what comes through loud and clear is that whatever you decide to do, this is not a decision to be taken lightly or frivolously. It is a major life change and it will have an impact not on just you and your significant other but on your children, grandchildren, your career -- if you want to or have to continue working -- as well as on your extended family and friends.
Plus, right now its a tough housing market. You may not be able to sell your condo or house at a price that makes sense if you can even sell it at all. Since it could take a couple of years to figure out whether or not you even want to move and, if you do, where you might want to go, you may want to start the planning process now.
If You Decide to Stay
If you are happy where you are, you are not alone. Eight out of ten Boomers say they want to stay where they are, says Nancy Thompson, who has been a communications manager for the last eleven years at AARP, the association for those 50+ with 40 million members. And if you want to stay in the same community, you may want to consider if the home or apartment where you now live will suit your needs as you age.
Here are some of the qualities of a user-friendly home which means that it will still work for you if you develop a kind of limitation that might require using a walker or a wheelchair:
no step entry
ability to work in the kitchen in a seated place or standing
being able to reach and work the cabinets and appliances from a seated position or an upright one
bathroom on the main level.
Thompson says there are a number of considerations when thinking about where to live out your life, such as:
The type of community you want to live in (rural, suburban, or urban)
Its location (near where you are, another state, another country)
The type of house or apartment
Cost of living
Health care affordability
Whether you are able to completely retire or do you need to keep working, at a job or in a self-employed capacity?
Proximity to your children, grandchildren, or friends.
As far as the community is concerned, here are some of the user friendly qualities of what Thompson says Boomers may want to seek out:
Can you walk comfortably to everything you need or will you have to drive or at least have access to transportation?
Will you have regular access to such places as the library, grocery store, or restaurants?
Is it a neighborhood that allows you to engage with other people in the kinds of things you want to do?
Those are the broad strokes of basic issues behind a move but there are even more factors that you and your partner might want to add to your own list.
George H. Schofield, Ph.D. is an organizational psychologist and former corporate vice president of a major bank in San Francisco. When he decided it was time to relocate from the city where he and his wife had both lived and worked and had raised their two children, now grown with children of their own, he knew he wanted to continue working.
So, five years ago, at the age of 60, he made what he calls a template or list of what would be important to him in the new location where he and his wife would spend the rest of their lives. Schofield, whos also the author of After 50 Its Up to Us, said he wanted a major airport within an hour, access to the ocean, to meet friendly people who would welcome them in, great health care, and to be near universities. He said the politics and the arts associated with the new community were other factors.
Since Schofield traveled a lot for business, whenever he was on a business trip, he would check out a potential community. Then, a year ago, to their friends amazement, the Schofields left San Francisco and moved to Sarasota, Florida, an area where they knew no one but it had everything they wanted; and they are very pleased with their new community.
Teresa Luetjen-Keller is a relocation and transition expert whose company is called Orella Moves, LLC. She shares her list of other relocation options that seem to be popular today for Boomers:
Lewes, Delaware if you want the beach life and low taxes, yet still have easy access to Baltimore, Philly and New York metro areas
Raleigh, North Carolina and its suburbs if you want milder weather and access to higher education, renowned medical facilitates, and a strong arts scene
Austin, Texas offers warm weather, music, music, music, a college and technology town
Boulder, Colorado Rocky Mountains and outdoor activities, still a strong economy with good job opportunities in various sectors.
To that list, AARPs Nancy Thompson adds Portland, Oregon, which she says has a light rail system that enables you to go around the entire city on public transportation, and Bostons Beacon Hill area. It has a village with a concierge system that enables seniors who live independently to get everything from home health care, transportation, or other services with just one phone call to the village office.
For more examples of communities to consider, see Mark Huffmans Retiring Boomers Flock to Rural Areas.
The Expat Scene
There is also a growing trend among boomers to live out their lives in other countries. Melinda Bates, who worked for President Clinton for eight years as the Director of the White House Visitors Office, decided at age 59 to move to Mexico.
Bates shared with me how she initially discovered her new home: I happened to see a television program that mentioned Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico, just south of San Diego. They interviewed a number of Americans, standing with big grins on their faces, on wide, sandy beaches. The sun shone on their faces as they talked about how much they loved living in Mexico, the great people, the ocean, and how far their dollars went. I looked at my boyfriend and said, Lets go there! and and so we did.
Bates is pleased with her decision. She explains, I like Mexico very much and Im really glad we came here. I always wanted to live on the ocean and here the same blue Pacific that rolls up on the shores of Santa Monica lies right outside my patio too only here its affordable! My two-bedroom, two-bath oceanfront house would have cost $5-7 million in Malibu. Here it was $275,000 and that was at the top of the market. Now a similar house can be had for just around $200,000 or less.
Kathleen Peddicord is another advocate of moving out of the United States as a relocation choice. Peddicord, author of How to Retire Overseas and founder of www.LiveandInvestOverseas.com, moved to Panama with her husband and their ten-year-old son. Her twenty-one year-old daughter lives in New York City but she visits her family regularly especially since her boyfriend now works for Peddicords company.
Peddicord has found that the two issues that most often deter those who are considering moving out of the country are leaving family and healthcare.
Its hard to walk away from grandchildren, she says. On the healthcare front, in her book she discusses various healthcare insurance options including buying the insurance locally or a policy that provides international coverage, which may be more expensive.
Peddicord also discusses in her book in greater depth the top 14 retirement areas around the world. The favorites she suggests Boomers consider are: Ecuador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and southwestern France.
However, you dont have to go outside the country to get what Bates and Peddicord found. I spoke with a number of enthusiastic Boomers who bragged about joyful places to consider moving to within the U.S. For example, Wende Gray, who is 61, loves her hometown of Bethel, Maine where she lives with her 63-year-old husband. Its a community they adore and that they are going to be sticking it out there as they age.
Cathy Severson, a 58-year-old retirement life planning coach, traded the high cost of living in Los Angeles for Prescott, Arizona, where the cost of housing made the move financially appealing. So far, she and her husband are loving it.
Deborah Stephens, who has teenage children, traded in Silicon Valley for Bloomington, Indiana after 28 years of living and working in the Bay Area. Stephens says the move wasnt easy and it was a risk but the rewards have been priceless.
Living on the Road
We Boomers have always been an adventuresome group so it should come as no surprise that many of us have turned into nomads in our later years. My husbands friend from college, and his wife, are Boomers who sold all their possessions a couple of years back and took up fulltime life on the road with just an RV as their home.
Ramona Creel, although not a Boomer, has been living, and working, in an RV with her husband for the last two years; she offers some insights into the RV lifestyle. Creel is a professional organizer who used to run an ecommerce organizing site but she sold it since it was a 24-hour commitment; she now prefers being a professional organizer and coach who works with people in person whenever she lands in a particular community or by phone and via e-mail. Her husband is a web designer so he can work from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and we take our internet connection with us.
Obviously, this is not a lifestyle that would suit everyone.
Creel says you have to be prepared to live in a very small space. And you cant be attached to your stuff. Youre not going to bring a whole house full of crap while you travel, she said. You have to be the kind of person who is good at dealing with spur of the moment changes in plans. And its really only for those who are child free, or for Boomers whose kids are out of the house. The only people I see doing this with children are those on vacation for a week.
Easing Into It
No matter what your preference, first take a vacation, or try renting, to get a better feel for the lifestyle youre considering whether its overseas, on the road, or in the next city over. Then ask yourself, Are you thrilled with the place and this way of life or do you find you cant wait to get back home?
Bob Mauterstock and his wife Mary left behind his career of 30 years in Hartford, Connecticut as a certified financial planner to begin a new career as an elder care advisor, speaker, and author. Mauterstock is the author of Can We Talk? A Financial Guide for Baby Boomers Assisting their Aging Parents.
Three years ago, he and his wife sold their house in Glastonbury, Connecticut and got an apartment in Hartford near his company. While he stayed there Mondays through Thursdays since he was still working, his wife moved into the vacation house in Cape Cod they had bought a decade before. We love the place, says Mauterstock. We bought it with the intention that it was going to be our permanent home. Then, last December, after Mauterstock retired from his company, he joined his wife to begin his next career.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
While moving is definitely a stressful major life event, the good news is that it is only 32nd on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. That means 31 other events, such as death of a spouse, divorce or retirement, are more stressful than moving.
Speaking of retirement, whether you decide to keep working or retire may have the biggest impact on where you live. And builders are taking note of this: AARPs Thompson points out that the new 50+ communities are being located closer to metropolitan areas and the new units are being built with home offices.
Arthur Koff, who started a site offering information for retirees back in 2003, RetiredBrains.com, said in the beginning, visitors to the site were mainly looking for information on arthritis pain, memory loss, type II diabetes, and continuing their education. Now, he says, traffic is ten times what it was, but a huge percentage of people who come to the site are looking for employment.
Sharing in the decision is key
If you are a couple and you want to stay a happy couple, where you and your significant other will spend the rest of your years together is a decision that has to be a shared one. This decision is huge, as big as when or if you wanted to have children, or where you were going to live as a couple and raise those children in the first place.
Whether it takes a few months, or even a couple of years, you and your loved one need to decide jointly whether you want to stay in the same home or apartment, or if you do want to change residences, if it will be in the same community or nearby, moving to another state, across the country, or if you will even become an expat living in another country.
This joint decision can be an exciting time to learn more about each other, what you now value and what you want to do in the years ahead, whether that means being in a rural location, near a metropolitan area, 3,000 miles away in a foreign country, or starting a new career.
The good news is that whether we Boomers decide to stay put, sell everything and move into an RV, or go to another city or country, it is key that we start weighing our options and figuring out what will work better for us in ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Fortunately for most of us, there are many years between right now and the assisted living or nursing home decisions that we are dealing with for our aging parents.
We still have the chance to proactively make lifestyle and residential choices for our 50s, 60s, and beyond at a time when most of us are relatively healthy. Although it is easy to be in denial about the mobilityand other mental and physical challenges that may afflict us and our loved ones down the road, knowing that we have at least made some decisions with those possibilities in mind, such as how we will get around when driving is no longer an option, can be comforting.
Associations and additional resources
- AARP Provides information on places to live; AARP The Magazine also annually picks the best cities for Boomers to consider for retirement.
- American Citizens Abroad
- Association of American Resident Overseas
- Find Your Spot Not just for Boomers, asks you to take a free quiz and based on that, the site suggests 24 possibilities for you to consider living.