Sixteen years ago, my husband and I moved to a rural area so I could accept a teaching position at the local community college. I was fifty-two at the time, and my husband was sixty-two. We are now both retired. We don’t have immediate plans to move; we enjoy our home, our friends, and our community. And, like many other retirees, we’ve long assumed we would age in place. Research suggests most retirees want to age in place. But there are considerations we all have to weigh when determining if, when, and to where we might need to relocate. As a Kiplinger article pointed out, what might feel like a good fit in our sixties might not work at all when we are in our eighties or when a spouse or significant other dies, leaving the other to live and potentially manage on their own. Typical considerations for whether it is realistic to stay in your home at a certain point include safety needs, expenses, healthcare, community services, family, lifestyle, and fit. Fortunately, if you do need to relocate, there are some useful online tools to help you identify the best location (see below).
Aging in Place ConsiderationsSafety Needs A SCAN Health Plan survey found that 62% of seniors believed that other seniors they knew could not safely age in place. For example, the two-story home we have enjoyed for years may now present a hazard as we try to climb stairs with unsteady balance. Homes with steep driveways could also present a problem for some older adults. Some safety hazards can be addressed by adding handrails, ramps, slip-free flooring, higher toilets, and other upgrades. Of course, these upgrades will involve additional expenses that some retirees will not be able to afford. Home Expenses Not all retirees are mortgage-free; even those who are without mortgage debt could still have some hefty home expenses. For example, my husband and I live in a home old enough so that our roof, the furnace, the air conditioning, and the water heater all needed to be replaced last year. We spent far more money than we anticipated on basic maintenance needs. Some of our neighbors can no longer do their own yardwork and hire a lawn maintenance company to mow their grass and handle basic landscaping. Because we live in a home with a small yard, my husband and I are still able to maintain it ourselves. However, we will eventually reach a point where we can no longer do the yard work on our own. For basic lawn service, our neighbors (who also have relatively small yards) are paying between $135-165 per month. My husband and I live in a state with property taxes. Our property tax increases almost every year. In addition to our home assessment, we are assessed for city improvements and services as well as schools. Last year, the local school district proposed a bond that did not pass. Some of my neighbors said that had the bond passed, they would have been forced out of their homes. We may reach a point where we need in-home personal care. I had an entirely independent and very healthy neighbor, but once she reached her mid-nineties, she needed additional assistance. She needed someone to help her cook, clean, do her errands, and assist her with basic personal needs such as getting out of chairs and helping her with mobility. The average estimated cost of an in-home caregiver is $21 per hour. Her other option was to move into an assisted living facility or with a family member. The average cost of living in an assisted living facility is about $4000 per month. My neighbor did not want to move from her home, so she paid someone to help with her basic needs. Healthcare Depending on where you live, access to healthcare could be problematic. In addition, some medical providers do not accept Medicare patients. As we age, our medical needs can become more complicated. Knowing that we have access to the care we need is essential as we age. Community Services If we live long enough, most of us will likely have to give up our driving privileges at some point. Unless we can invest in a driverless car, we’ll be dependent on Uber, buses, our feet, and even safe bike paths to get us to where we need to go. If your current community does not have an accessible transportation system, that could be a problem for you later—especially if you do not have a dependable loved-one close by or don’t want to pay a personal assistant. Social opportunities are also essential at every age and stage in our life. Our social connections can change throughout our retirement. People will move away or die. If we lose a spouse, the couples we enjoyed spending time with may no longer feel like a comfortable fit for us. Some communities do offer more senior services and opportunities for social connections than do others. Of course, volunteer work can also provide opportunities to connect with others. The National Institute on Aging provides some resources and suggestions for aging in place. Check out their site. Family For many retirees, being close to family – children, siblings, or others—is very important. We may be comfortable living a few hours away from our loved ones when we are younger retirees. As we age, it can be more challenging to drive any distance to spend time with family. If you have grandchildren, proximity can make the difference between attending important events and only hearing about them later. Also, grandparents can offer support and spend time investing in their grandchildren. As we age, we may also need support from family members. If we have an emergency or need that we cannot otherwise meet, it does place a burden on loved-ones when we live a significant distance away. My husband and I live in a beautiful, rural community about 2 ½ hours south of any family members. I am used to zipping up the freeway and hanging out with kids, grandkids, and siblings. At some point, however, it will be more difficult for me to take a drive up north. While our children have been good about making trips down to see us, we have limited accommodations, which can be challenging at times. Also, we miss out on spontaneous get-togethers because of our distance from family. Like many other retired couples, the distance from our families is difficult for us. Lifestyle and Fit Our lives will change over time, and so will our community—at least to some degree. Since I first moved to my current rural location, dozens of local wineries have sprung up. I love good wine and enjoy taking visitors to some of the best wine-producing vineyards in the region. I also enjoy an active outdoor life. I like to jog, take walks, and ride my bike. My husband was drawn to golfing opportunities in the area. However, because of health issues, he hasn’t been able to golf for years. When we first moved into our area, most of our neighbors were politically conservative. My husband and I grew up near Portland, Oregon, and are relatively progressive. While others have moved into the area who tend to share our political ideology, we often feel like the odd couple in our community. We have a great art gallery at the local community college and some very talented artists, poets, and musicians living in the area. We also have ‘big name’ performers who visit the area each summer and put on free concerts in the park. Overall, we are still enjoying the larger environment in which we live. Lifestyle and fit are important – especially as we go through different aging stages. If relocation is something you might need to consider, local physical, social, and political environment may be something you will want to think about.
Useful Online Tools for Identifying Your Best New LocationTAX EXPENSES: Worried about taxes in retirement? Check out this link for a breakdown of different state taxes and taxes on retirement income. BEST LOCATION IN EACH STATE: Discover the county in our state with the best health costs, taxes, and housing expenses. I checked out the site and found out I live 30 miles from one of the best counties in Oregon to live. REGIONAL SENIOR RESOURCES: Find out what resources might be available to assist you in your aging journey in different regions around the country. LOCATION FINDER: Use this interactive tool to find ideal locations based on 10 criteria you identify. I tried this tool – it was pretty cool!