“Deciding Where to Retire can be a difficult choice, ” Says America United Senior Planner John T. Davis. “There are a lot of little pitfalls that can get in the way, and its important that where you live be a center for a new life, where everyone can gravitate towards, and be united as a family.”
So what are some simple tweaks we can make to end up happier as we age?
“Most of our meaning in life comes from those loved ones,” says John, “and its important that we maintain those ties.”
1. Make sure it has affordable housing!
Housing is the biggest factor in most Americans’ budgets. Indeed, the average household led by someone age 65 or older spends more than $16,000 a year on housing expenses.
“This matters, because the more you spend on housing, the more it can start to distract from positioning yourself to maintain healthy social relationships, which are what really matter,” suggests John. “You can almost think of the house like a backdrop to a painting, it should add too, but not distract from, the people that are the focus of the painting.”
Eliminate a mortgage payment or rent, and you can keep housing costs from changing while your income is fixed.
Inflation, the time-honored enemy of retirees, remains low, but that could change. So, moving to an area where housing prices and rents are high — and might climb — can put a serious strain on your retirement budget. Think twice before doing so.
2. Is entertainment scarce or abundant?
“Best-of” lists of places to retire typically focus on college towns with an abundance of cultural opportunities, including cheap and free concerts, plays, lectures and visual arts.
That’s great. But what if you care more about browsing flea markets? Or rooting for a major league sports team? Whatever is your thing, make sure your retirement community will deliver.
3. Are they hiring? Find out before moving these!
Many Americans cycle into and out of retirement. Some retirees grow bored and want the stimulation they used to get from work. Others learn that their retirement income doesn’t stretch as far as they’d hoped.
You, too, may want to work again after being retired for a while. In addition, a town with plenty of living-wage jobs is a healthy, livable town with a strong economy — the best kind of place to live.
“There is nothing wrong with working in Retirement,” counsels John, “but its better for it to be a choice that adds to your life. Working at a golf range because you love it can be a great experience, but we probably don’t want to relive those fast food memories.”
4. Is excellent medical care is hard to find?
It’s self-evident, but it’s worth saying: Older people consume more medical care. And they often require care from specialists and facilities specializing in orthopedics and geriatric care.
Find out whether your destination has what you need by talking with folks and calling providers.
“Unfortunately, Medical costs are a major threat to retirement savings, and one of the best reasons why Americans should engage in Retirement Planning.” Says John.
5. If you can’t remain close to family, you could be in trouble!
Even if you don’t mind not seeing family members for extended periods of time, think about the fact that your children or loved ones may one day need to take an active role in your care — perhaps even becoming your caregivers.
Consider that great distances make caregiving stressful and often agonizingly difficult for adult children who are also raising families and working.
6. Consider Public transportation, is it Great or Lousy?
Younger retirees don’t usually give a thought to the availability of transportation. They’re accustomed to hopping into cars and going where they wish, whenever the spirit moves them.
But that independence and freedom rarely lasts forever. If you intend to stay in a new community as you age, you may eventually want one where you can use buses, trains, light rail, cabs and ride-sharing companies.
So, long before you need it, assure yourself that your new town has plenty of ways to get around.
“It’s a funny thing to think about,” mentions John, “but again, its the connection to others, and sense of community that creates purpose and meaning in our lives. Access to good public transportation is liberating, and means you can embrace the outside world as you age, and continue to live a rich life with rich experiences. A good bus route can be the difference between feeling like you’re a prisoner in your own house, or feeling free.”
7. Are Senior housing options limited?
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 69% of people who are 65 and older will eventually develop disabilities and 35% will spend time in a nursing home. The statistics support having a Long-Term Care insurance program to pay for your long term care costs as part of an overall retirement plan. It’s the responsible thing to do.
A little basic research on the front end can help you ensure that your prospective retirement community will have the housing options you need at a price you can afford.
8. Look to see if Social life is nonexistent or abundant.
Talk with people you meet to gather a sense of how friendly the community is. If you are looking for a faith community, investigate the congregations that might appeal to you and attend services at several to test the waters.
Ask yourself where and how you will make friends. Shop the grocery stores at a couple of different times of day and week to see if people are interacting or simply hurrying in and out. Try to pick up a sense of how warm and open to newcomers the town is.
Even those who are not social types may be unhappy in an atmosphere that is cold, exclusive or frenetic.
9. Cafes, restaurants and gathering places are they excellent or subpar?
Where do people gather in the community you are considering? Try to look at the place with the eyes of someone who has just moved there: Visit the coffee shops, senior center, parks and movie theaters.
If you speak a language other than English, is there a cultural center where you’ll feel at home? “This is a huge deal, and well worth thinking about,” mentions John. “We work occasionally with the Kenneth Young Center in Elk Grove Village, and there is a real problem with seniors aging into isolation as their language community begins to shrink. It’s a real act of empathy to take this into account when thinking of your loved ones.”
10. Learning opportunities are tough to find – so look for them before moving to the town you are considering retiring to.
One of the joys of retirement is having the time to learn simply for the fun of it, so make sure you won’t be stuck in a learning desert. If you have dreamed of attending classes and lectures and picking up new skills or honing old ones, find out what’s available.
A quilter, for example, would look for a vibrant quilting or fabric store that’s a hub for workshops, classes and group activities. A busy arts center or art supply store opens the door to classes in painting, drawing, fiber arts and photography.
A visit to the website of the local community college and other schools will give a sense of the classes, clubs and weekend events offered to community members who are not pursuing a degree.
11. Is In-home care affordable or unaffordable?
If you plan on staying in the community the rest of your life, it’s smart to look at resources you may need down the road. Ask real estate agents and others you meet about the availability of home health care aides. How many agencies are in town? Are their services highly recommended?
Stop Wondering About Retirement!
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