Making the commitment to relocate once you retire is a big decision. With a roll of the dice you risk leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable from that hole-in-the-wall local bakery to the car repair shop you trust to those neighbors who have in some cases become part of the family. Yet for many the call to move after they retire is strong. Some consider relocation in an effort to downsize now that the kids are out the door. For others the old neighborhood is changing so much that it feels like it is time to move on. Still others are looking for a new adventure to launch their second act. Whatever your motivation, finding that perfect place to call home can be one of the most important decisions you will make.
After almost three decades in the Bay Area, my wife and I recently pulled up roots and moved to a new area to retire. Before ultimately hitting the road we did our due diligence. We considered numerous states before settling on California where we currently reside. Then we studied likely regions across the state until we drilled down to a handful of candidates. Next we carefully researched the areas and visited multiple times to get a feel for neighborhoods and local amenities. Along the way we agreed there were certain things we required in a new home and neighborhood – our must haves.
Close to amenities that matter
Now that you are retired you have time to do what you really want to do. Part of the successful relocation equation is to put yourself near those things you love. For us walking distance to the local downtown was a biggie. Get your daily exercise while discovering the best restaurants and shops and meeting the locals. It is wonderful to stroll to your favorite coffee shop where you are greeted by the quirky owner who entertains you with endless stories while creating the perfect cappuccino to start your day. As you get older nearness to local medical facilities becomes increasingly important. Having qualified people you know and trust nearby makes life easier and safer. Access to public transportation can be a big plus greatly expanding your range of activities should driving become challenging. And for me it was important to be close to the beach where I imagine the retired me patiently wandering the coastline with waves booming as salt air mists in my face. With a bit of careful planning retirement can be a time to surround yourself with what you love.
Different neighborhoods cater to different people. Finding an area sensitive to the needs of seniors is a worthy consideration if not necessarily for this moment but rather down the road. Shuttles to get around, organizations to engage with, volunteer opportunities to donate time, pet friendly restaurants, all little things that can make retirement living more enjoyable and fun. Living near others of similar age and interests and background helps make for a smoother transition and quicker assimilation.
Variety of local attractions
Years ago a boss of mine shared his view that living near a college town was high on his list of must haves. “There is always something going on and the energy of the students keeps you young.” Having multiple options when it comes to local attractions is important. If you are hikers finding a retirement location near parks and mountains and oceans can be just the ticket. Should nightlife and the theater be your thing access to a big city is important. You need not necessarily live in the city just within a reasonable distance. If you like to travel consider where the nearest airport is located. We found ourselves in a newly developing relatively unknown wine region with a handful of tasting rooms within walking distance, handy when visitors show up at our door. The more activities available in your backyard the better equipped you are to avoid boredom.
My wife thrives in sunshine and I have to admit as I get older I like the cold less and less. We love hiking on a sunny day through the woods and neighborhood so sunshine was a big part of our final relocation decision. We have friends who love to ski and so nearness to snow is an essential part of their retirement destination. There are even those who love the rain. When it comes to weather we all have our preferences. The key is to choose a retirement spot with weather that maximizes what you love and minimizes what you can gladly do without.
Age friendly design of the house
The house you retire to can be your friend or occasionally your enemy. While stairs are a non-issue when you’re twenty aging knees may rebel if required to ascend to the bedroom each night. The convenience of a single story home will be appreciated down the road. Little things also make a difference: cabinets with drawers allow access to things stored in the back; shelves not too high up; good lighting throughout; efficient heating and cooling to maintain a comfortable temperature; easy to use appliances that don’t require an advanced degree to operate; even handles on doors instead of knobs help. Little details can have big impact.
Being comfortable and safe in retirement is how we all hope to live. Having enough interests and variety in our day to keep us engaged and active gives us a reason to get out of bed each morning. Finding a retirement location that best fits your expectations while inching ever closer to your dreams is a step in the right direction.