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Moving in Retirement? How To Decide Where To Go

As noted in our recent post, Should I Move in Retirement?, there can be several triggers for considering a new home later in life.

  • Retirement
  • An empty nest
  • Health problems
  • Job transfer
  • Living costs
  • Lifestyle choices

Among these, a health situation could urgently drive the question of where to live into immediate focus.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first step is to thoroughly assess your condition and the implications for your living situation. Consulting with medical professionals and family is crucial in this assessment. The result should be a living plan that provides the best support for your healthcare needs.

The elements of the plan need to consider several questions.

Question 1: What Level of Support is Needed?

If your healthcare needs are modest, a more independent lifestyle could be the best fit. For example, if you simply need to make frequent doctor visits but are otherwise capable, you may not need to change much in your living situation. On the other hand, if a stroke has decreased your mobility, a home with handicap accessibility may now be required.

Question 2: Should I Move to a New Location?

Again, this depends on your particular health situation. It also depends on the location of caregivers. Even with modest medical conditions, you may have greater peace of mind by moving closer to family or other caregivers. Another reason to move might be living in another climate that is easier on your health. For example, moving to a warmer climate in winter allows for more outdoor activities, which reduces infection risks and increases exercise options.

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Options to Support Health

If health is the main driver for deciding whether you stay in your home or move, there are various options to know about when dealing with health issues.

I'm Healthy Now – Should I Stay or Move?

If you're lucky enough to enjoy good health, you have more options. Your next step should be to weigh the importance of various factors such as:

  • Ability to remain independent for as long as possible
  • Availability of medical care
  • Community size (i.e., urban, suburban, or rural)
  • Level of age diversity
  • Living costs
  • Nearness to family and close friends
  • Political/social climate
  • Proximity to areas of interest
  • Social interaction opportunities
  • Weather

Independence

To what degree would location impact your independence? Independence can be defined as being able to take care of oneself without outside intervention. As we age, both internal and external forces erode our independence. Health physical and mental health challenges are examples of internal causes that can make us more dependent on others. Also, an external hurdle like financial pressure can force one to be less independent.

Will living in your current home with modifications for physical ailments be the best choice? Conversely, would moving to a warmer climate now lower the risk of health and safety issues in the future? Another thing to consider in a place to live is the support for independent lifestyles. For example, how easy is it to buy groceries or have your car serviced? These are just a few things that could affect your long-term independence.

Medical Care

You may be healthy now, but what if you need medical care in the future? Is your current home near medical facilities? If not, perhaps a move to be closer to such care should factor into your thinking. The opposite is true. If your doctor is now close by, but your dream retirement home is far away from the nearest hospital, moving could add a healthcare risk.

Community Size

How do you feel about the size of your current location? For example, you may live in the city now but may be contemplating a quieter lifestyle in the suburbs or even further away. Before committing to a move, try visiting an area for an extended period. For instance, you could rent an Airbnb for two to four weeks. The experience may confirm your choice. On the other hand, it could be a needed reality check that will help avoid a big mistake.

Age Diversity

Age-restricted communities dedicated to "55+" started in the mid-1950s. Since then, such communities have become commonplace in the U.S. While the concept of living with similarly aged people is attractive to many, others prefer to live with a wider variety of age groups. It makes sense to thoroughly research both 55+ and non-age-restricted lifestyles to choose the best option for you.

Living Costs

As noted in our recent post, Should I Move in Retirement?, your feelings about the cost of living may evolve as you age. Motivation to move to a smaller home or a state with lower costs may increase over time.

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Nearness to Family/Friends

The desire to live near family and friends can be either a reason for or against moving. You may decide to stay put if your loved ones already live nearby. On the other hand, many older adults move specifically to be closer to their adult children and grandchildren. Still, others don't feel family ties should prevent them from experiencing life in a new location and are satisfied with occasional visits with loved ones.

Political/Social Climate

Moving to a new location, especially out-of-state, might place you within a political and social environment different from your hometown. For some, this is no big deal because of all the other advantages of their new home. However, for others, the anticipated feelings of stress in such a different setting cause them to eliminate that location among their options.

Proximity to Areas of Interest

"Areas of interest" could include:

  • Type of terrain (e.g., ocean versus mountains)
  • Cultural attractions like museums or orchestras
  • Quality and quantity of restaurants
  • Recreational activities (e.g., biking, boating, etc.)
  • Sporting events

These and many other things could make an area an attractive "move to" destination.

Social Interaction Opportunities

Some of us thrive on making people-to-people connections, while others feel comfortable with more solitary pursuits. If having opportunities to interact socially and make new friends is a priority, ask people who already live in an area about that aspect of life in their community. Feeling lonely in a new location is not unusual. So, if meeting people is important to you, make sure you know how that process works in each of your new home options.

Weather

Moving to a better weather geography is, for many, a major reason for relocation later in life. However, our preconceived notions about always being blissful in a different part of the country may not be 100% realistic, especially in the era of climate change. For example, Florida is known for sunny skies and warm temps. Yet, during hurricane season, Floridians know their weather can be downright dangerous. Sunny California seems like a great place to live, but high heat, water restrictions, and wildfires are a fact of life in the Golden State.


There are many options to consider when thinking about moving or staying put. Carefully assessing all the different angles will increase the possibility that your final decision is a good fit for you.
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