When you finally retire, where would you like to live? Most people approaching retirement have probably played that little mind-game a hundred times. “If I could live wherever I want,” we ask ourselves, “where would it be?”
That can indeed be a fun exercise, but there’s more to deciding where to live in retirement than mere daydreams. For many, the retirement years are the first time in decades, or maybe ever, when we can make the lifestyle choices we want, inhibited only by our imagination and, of course, our budget. In this recent article from US News, reporters Emily Brandon and Emily Sherman help us evaluate options by presenting a list of 10 key criteria that we think might prove helpful. At the very least, the list provided by the two Emilies can provide a way to separate the flights of retirement fancy from those more realistic choices.
Facing “a World of Possibilities” is Daunting
“When you no longer need to live near your job, a world of possibilities opens up,” Brandon and Sherman begin. And there are plenty of potential benefits, too!
For example, relocation can save you money, if you can find affordable housing and lower taxes in a new spot. You can live near friends, children, or grandchildren, or you could choose a favorite location based on weather or amenities that you’ve always wanted.
“More than 230,000 Americans moved to retire in 2022, according to a study from online marketplace Hire A Helper,” the article states. “Unsurprisingly, Florida topped the list of locales for new retirees, with 12 percent of retirees choosing the Sunshine State for their move. But there are hundreds of other options.”
Want to know if a location is right for your retirement? Consider the following criteria.
Criterion #1: Housing Built for Aging
Even the most beautiful location can be a nightmare for retirees if the home you’ve chosen isn’t appropriate for your health and safety as you age.
Whether you want to stay in your existing home or move to a new one, if you want to maintain your independence for as long as possible then certain features and upgrades can go a long way, starting with basics such as railings, grab bars, and improved lighting.
“Homes with a bedroom, bathing and laundry facilities on a single level with a no-step entry are generally the easiest for older people to navigate,” Brandon and Sherman write. “Other useful features include slip-resistant floors and lever-style doorknobs and faucets.” Adding these amenities can be costly, so it’s often better to buy a home built with seniors in mind.
Criterion #2: Good Public Transportation
Giving up driving may be in your future, as much as it’s difficult to admit. With that in mind, it’s important to consider whether your chosen home is accessible via public transportation, and how close you are to important places like the bank, grocery stores, and other shops.
“A few cities have reliable train and bus services for people of all ages,” Brandon and Sherman write. “Taxi and ride-sharing companies offer transportation that you request and pay for on your phone, but it can be expensive to use these services on a regular basis. Some communities provide low-cost taxi or van services just for older people. Make sure you will be able to get around town without driving a car.” Otherwise, you can be stuck at home.
Criterion #3: Nearby Health Care
As you age, you’ll likely be in more need of varied health care services. But if you live an hour away from your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or the nearest hospital, medical emergencies and managing inconvenient health conditions can become a far more dangerous reality.
“You may increasingly be able to take care of some routine medical needs remotely by taking advantage of telehealth appointments from home and finding a pharmacy that can deliver your regular medications,” the article states. “However, it’s still useful to live near a major medical provider in the event that you need emergency care or to treat chronic conditions that must be monitored in person.”
Criterion #4: A Strong Economy
Many retirees are increasingly working part-time for the sake of continued income and social networking. But if the area you live in doesn’t have a strong enough economy to support these kinds of opportunities, it might be wise to move on to a community that does.
Brandon and Sherman explain, “Many retirees take jobs with flexible or seasonal hours that allow increased time for hobbies and interests. A retirement job can also provide opportunities to socialize with colleagues, interact with customers or clients, mentor younger employees and give back to the community. If you relocate for retirement, a part-time job can be a good way to meet people in your new community.”
Criterion #5: An Affordable Cost of Living
The last thing you want to deal with in retirement is worrying about house payments and whether or not you can pay your bills. But in some locations, those worries are more acute than others, so it’s crucial to do a little homework before you settle in one spot.
Linda Chavez, founder and CEO of Seniors Life Insurance Finder, explains, “When you are planning for retirement, it is important to consider the cost of living in your target location. Many retirees choose to move to a place with lower costs, such as a rural area or one with lower taxes and regulations. Consider what you can afford and if the location offers incentives like tax breaks for people over a certain age.”
The goal? At a minimum, aim to be able to comfortably cover your bills and have a little left over for fun. Libraries and senior centers can be a great places to save a little money since they often sponsor free activities, such as concerts and movie nights.
Criterion #6: Year-Round Weather You Can Tolerate
Everyone’s idea of perfect weather is different. While the common stereotype of the typical retiree is to head to the sunny south, year-round sun doesn’t have to be your thing.
The most important aspect of choosing a location based on climate is that you understand what it will look like year-round, not just in the most “pleasant” times of year. Some beautiful locations can get bitterly cold, and some gorgeous spots can be absolutely sweltering.
Whether you’re looking for year-round sun or a four-season climate, Brandon and Sherman advise, “Spend a few months or even a year in a new place before you make a permanent move. Renting for the first year makes it easy to move on if a city or neighborhood is not a good fit. Additionally, consider the area’s susceptibility to natural disasters.” Tornadoes and hurricanes are very real dangers in some parts of the U.S.
Criterion #7: Opportunities to Socialize
For many, the workplace is the most socialization they used to get. Without a regular job, it can be easy to fall into loneliness if you lack opportunities to get out and meet like-minded folks on a regular basis.
Wherever you choose to live, make sure it offers possibilities for you to socialize. “Some communities have senior centers that plan activities or meals that give older residents opportunities to stay engaged with others,” Brandon and Sherman write. “Volunteer work is another way to meet new people and serve the community. Moving to an area with other retirees can help you connect with people who are free during the day. Some retirement communities host outings and social events for residents.” Take advantage of them.
Criterion #8: Help with Chores and Maintenance
“Maintaining your home gets more difficult as you age,” the article states. “Cutting grass and shoveling snow can be labor-intensive, and even changing light bulbs gets more dangerous. It’s important to have someone who can help you with these tasks, whether it’s a friendly neighbor or paid help.”
Because of this, some retirees choose to move into apartments where the landlord takes care of the building maintenance. Assisted living communities do the same while also providing medical and personal care for residents based on their needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Criterion #9: Proximity to Children and Grandchildren
Sometimes, finally having the ability to move freely can mean finally living near children and grandchildren, which is an exciting prospect for many.
Brandon and Sherman write, “Residing in the same city as your relatives can add meaning to your retirement years and be a source of help with errands you would otherwise have to pay for. You may need to decide if you want to play a role in child care for your grandchildren, which could range from daily help to occasional babysitting.” As with most things, however, living near family requires open, honest communication and clearly understood expectations.
Criterion #10: Amenities for Seniors
Now that you’re no longer working full-time, you should finally have the time to pursue the hobbies and passions you’ve always wanted to have time for! Your hobbies and interests should be considered before you move into a new location.
If you enjoy golf, museums, hiking, going to the beach, or any one of a number of other fun and beautiful activities, then you should make sure you have access to those things.
“Retirement should be an enjoyable time, and it helps to have plenty of leisure activities available,” says Chavez. “Research what types of recreation the area offers, from parks and gardens to cultural amenities like museums and galleries. Make sure there are enough facilities nearby so that you can remain active in your retirement years.”
With the right planning in place, your new neighborhood in your retirement years could be the home you’ve always dreamed of. Just make sure it’s the right spot for you to enjoy.
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(originally reported at https://money.usnews.com)