Senior Citizens Debate Renovation vs Relocation

For many senior citizens, the dream has been upon retirement to move away from their current digs and relocate to that retirement Shangri La where they will happily live out the rest of their lives. With no job or child raising responsibilities to tie seniors to any specific locale, we wistfully imagine a life beyond the snow and away from the traffic and mayhem that we have had to deal with. This is our chance to escape from what is into what can be.

But moving and relocating is a big endeavor and not something to be undertaken lightly. Before senior citizens can move, you need to sell your current home and ideally get what it is worth – no guarantee of that these days. In “Renovate, not relocate, is new trend for baby boomers” (I wish I had thought of that title first!) a realtor notes that declining prices in suburbs “appears to be keeping a lot of aging boomers from selling and moving to something befitting their changed lifestyle.”

Then you have to find that perfect place to relocate to but there is no guarantee that your vision of what life will be like at your new destination will in fact be reality. The only way to know what your new life will be is to live it and by that time, you are kinda committed.

And finally, with a move retirees leave behind friends and family that you know and love, hoping to re-establish quality relationships in your new neighborhood but again, no guarantee.

What if instead of moving from your familiar neighborhood and friends and coffee shops and restaurants where everybody knows your name you instead make some changes, some renovations to your current domicile? If you were to implement the improvements that you may have considered over the years, would you be happy where you are? Maybe where you live today can with some changes morph into that Shangri La you envision.

What would you change?

If you choose to go down the path of renovation instead of relocation, you are in luck. This time you get to do what you WANT to do! You don’t have to evaluate each and every potential improvement in terms of how it will impact your resale value – you are not worried about selling. The focus instead is on creating the perfect surroundings for your retirement years so you can go for it. With that in mind, what renovations would you most likely go for?

Universal Design considerations – this is a house built for a retirement couple so any changes you make should include elements that will allow you to retire in place for as long as possible. Little things like lower counters, fewer steps, easy-to-open door handles, and in general well thought out architectural design that facilitates the needs of senior citizens. You will not regret for site here.

Game room – I have always had an issue with the garage. In general, we are talking about the biggest room in the house, probably 400 square feet for a standard two-car configuration. There is SO MUCH we could do with that room if we did not need to park cars there. And in our retirement, the likelihood is that we will share a single car so there is even more wasted space.

So in my retirement Shangri La, the garage becomes the pool room! A nice pool table centrally located with enough space to shoot any shot that comes along during the course of the game. I would also have a dart board off to one side and maybe even a foosball table for those so inclined. A quick bit of insulation for cold nights, some dry walling, a dash of paint, some carpeting on the floor is you want and there you have it. There will be never a dull moment with your spacious entertainment room always ready for action.

Bathroom – have you always wanted a big tub to crawl into at the end of the day, a few candles sputtering on the counter top, with a nice glass of zinfandel in your hand? Options are many for tubs and jacuzzi and shower appliances and you-name-it so spend some time searching and find exactly what you are looking for. If you cannot afford to bring out the big guns and add a Jacuzzi tub, look into refinishing your existing tub and/or shower. Without spending too much, you can have a good-as-new hideaway. Remember, this is the house you are retiring to so don’t be conservative if you want a splash or red or yellow or even pink – just do it! And may I recommend nice plastic wine glasses to cap the experience.

Kitchen – if you like to cook, there are many choices for kitchen improvements from gourmet stoves to super-efficient dishwashers to unending options in the small appliance arena. Kitchen remodeling can be an expensive undertaking but you can definitely improve the workability of your cooking space with various gadgets, helpful devices and thoughtful arrangements. Investigate the kitchen supply areas in your major stores or if you want to step up, Sur La Table or William Sonoma will not do you wrong. And remember that convenience, ease of use and ease of cleaning will become more important over the years so plan ahead.

Some just-plain-cool extras

  • Heated tiles on the kitchen floor welcome your bare feet
  • “Touch lamps” that are turned on by tapping any part of the lamp rather than searching for the on/off switch
  • Heated towel racks in the bathroom are nice touch
  • Remote control fire places that with the press of a button “fire-up” and allow you to adjust the temperature as well as fan speed to quickly heat any room
  • Did you know that they actually make heated toilet seats these days!

The attraction of moving to a small beach community for your retirement home may be what ultimately sends you on your way. Something new can be exciting although a bit risky, so you need to weigh your personal desires and those of your spouse and make the best decision. Cost, weather, distance from family, local amenities, and a host of other variables need to be considered. But I believe it does provide some small peace of mind when you have options. To move or not to move, that is the question. And each of us will need to answer according to our individual tastes, loves, desires, and budget.

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Enjoy the book and enjoy the journey.

Dave Bernard

Where to Retire – a Boomer Case Study

We continue  our research into options to move to upon retirement. Still not 100% sure we will not retire to where we are today since it has its advantages as a possible home base from which to launch our vacation travels. However, we are not immune to those dreams of the perfect retirement home in the perfect neighborhood where we can look forward to each day blissfully enjoying our senior lifestyle. In a previous blog “Retire to your Shangri La”, I discuss some keys to help decide where to retire to and/or if to move. Today I will use this guide to research one place that I believe could be our perfect retirement Shangri La.

Retire to Pacific Grove – does it fit the criteria?

I have been familiar with Pacific Grove on the California coast all my life. In fact, my parents went to Borg’s Motel for their honeymoon and return each year – rain or shine – for 53 years and counting! It holds a magical feeling as a vacation spot but how does it stack up as a place to move to and retire to? I have been researching as well as personally visiting the area to determine just that. Based on five variables – proximity to what you need most, weather, neighborhood, population makeup and density, and cost – here are the results:

(1)  Proximity to what you need most – once retired, we want  our family to be close enough to visit. Of course, we do not want them to be TOO close – no surprise door bells early Sunday morning or unexpected arrivals close to bedtime (like 9:30…). Our kids currently reside in the Bay Area and with Pacific Grove about 90 miles away, this fits – CHECK.

Also important is a small-town downtown within comfortable walking distance. The downtown area along Lighthouse Avenue is eight blocks from end to end, with small businesses on  each side. No big-name commercial food or drink in sight. Better still, it is three blocks from the ocean so as you walk the boulevard, a look over your shoulder and there is the blue Pacific with the nearby coastline hugging its periphery. CHECK.

And if we need something a bit more cosmopolitan – a night away for a fine dinner or a change of scenery – Carmel is five miles down the road.

(2)  Weather – on the coast means that dreaded FOG is a frequent visitor. The significance of this depends on the individual but no one wants to retire to a fog bank. So I strolled the downtown and asked the locals for their insight. Now they may have been trying to recruit new residents but to a one, each described typically some fog in the morning, burning off late morning and then returning in the evening. The day I visited (7/27/2010), I arrived around 11:30 and it was overcast but no fog at ground level. Within 30 minutes, blue skies and a temperature of 67. We personally do not mind a little overcast as long as sunshine arrives  before day’s end. Double checking, I went to a very helpful site and learned that historical temperatures range from a low in Jan of 43-60 degrees to a high in October of 51-70. For us, these temperate lows just mean more time in front of the fireplace! CHECK.

(3)  Neighborhood – my wife and I have got  a map to stake out different neighborhoods around Pacific Grove to investigate. First driving to get a lay of the land we then walked those most closely fitting our retirement checklist. Staying within our desired 3-5 blocks to downtown, ideally within five blocks of the waterfront, we were pleasantly surprised. Turn-of-the-century Victorians to brand new houses populated the blocks. Some neighborhoods had a more vacation/rental feel – lawns needing trimming, paint needing refreshing – but there were multiple locations that would work nicely for us. We found one that was SUPERBLY located, newly built, and stylish to the extreme. Then we realized that we are still a few years away from pulling the trigger on a retirement move so we saved the flier and headed down the street for a coffee.

And people in the neighborhood actually nodded and said hello more often than not, something Silicon Valley is not exactly famous for. So, looking good – CHECK.

(4)  Population make-up and density – Pacific Grove is a major tourist attraction, home of Cannery Row and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. With that come busy streets during weekends and summer vacation. I personally am not a fan of crowds so this is a drawback to this choice. Our saving grace is that once retired, we will have the luxury of avoiding busy areas on weekends and venturing outside, crowd free, on weekdays.  A compromise but not a deal breaker.

Returning to for some encouraging statistics on the local population, we find:

  • Total population 15,522 => not too big, not too small
  • 65+ accounts for 19.2% of the town with a median age of 44.7
  • English, German, Irish and Italian make up 42.8%

(5)  Price – this one is different for everyone so I will leave it out of the exercise. If we could not afford a reasonable home in Pacific Grove, we should not consider moving there to retire.

On a recent visit, I took my lunch down to the waterfront and sat on a bench, enjoying the sunny afternoon. In the water a handful of harbor seals sunned and precariously balanced on rocks too small for their plump bodies. A retired couple (my guess) walked by and asked, “Have you seen the whales? The krill are in so they are feeding right here.” They smiled, held hands, and continued down the path. I smiled as I strained my eyes searching the horizon. I think this will work…I think this will work just fine.

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