Without a doubt, retirement is a departure from life as we know it. Among the many decisions that need to be made, deciding where to live is a significant one. No longer constrained by their job, the retiree is pretty much free to decide where and how they will live in retirement.
A deep emotional attachment to the family home often exists and not surprisingly, many choose to remain there. For some, the home may be regarded as a financial investment; however, the emotional investment in the family home is often reported to be of greater significance. The desire to stay independent, remain connected to long-standing friends and maintaining active lives in the community; strongly influence the decision for retirees to stay in their current home. Planning ahead for potential physical changes or for an accessibility challenge is imperative. While there are many “Best Places to Live” lists, there is no one perfect place to retire, and the goal is to find a place that best meets each person’s unique needs and personal circumstances
Downsizing or moving to a condo offers many benefits. It provides more manageable living space, freedom from home maintenance, and amenities such as a concierge or perhaps even fitness facilities. However, condo fees are often subject to change and the space for entertaining and family gatherings is greatly reduced.
Retirement Communities provide most of the amenities that one would need, all in one place. Medical care, housekeeping, leisure activities, and optional levels of care can be negotiated. These age friendly communities are usually designed to encourage active engagement by providing safety features such as well-maintained walkways, accessible buildings and good public transportation.
Moving to a new location where the weather is fine and leisure activities are plentiful is another option. Detailed research is essential before making a major move like this. It is critical to understand the tax implications and the costs of healthcare when living abroad. Visit several times, particularly in the off-season. Understand what it will be like to actually live there by checking out residential areas, services and amenities. Peace and tranquility are wonderful, but be satisfied that there is enough to do all year around to remain engaged.
Regardless of whether the decision is to remain in the family home, downsize, or to live abroad in the sun; the considerations that need to be factored into the decision remain the same. The goal is to find living arrangements that provide health and social supports and services one will need to live safely and independently in their home. Furthermore, since retirees must anticipate that their needs will change over time, planning for the future is imperative.
Factors to Consider:
- Family– Many retirees delight in their in their families and have a strong desire to remain close to them. Do you need space to accommodate an elderly parent, or an adult child? Do you want to be able to entertain or host family get-togethers in your home?
- Friends – Is it important to remain in close proximity to friends, neighbours, community social groups? Do you have a social network?
- Maintenance – How will you maintain your home in the future? Are there services in the community? What services will you need to remain independent as you age? How will you manage snow removal, gardening etc.?
- Physical structure of home – Can you manage stairs now? Will you be able to in the future? Do you/will you need safety railings, grab bars, ramps? Is your home accessible? Do you/will you use a walker or a wheelchair? Can doorway width accommodate this? Can you pay for these changes?
- Transportation – How will you get around if/when you are no longer able to drive? What transportation options are available in your community such as public transportation, taxis, or disabled transit services? Can you get to the services that you will need?
- Leisure activities – How will you stay connected and engaged in your community? Will there be people with similar interests? Are there age- friendly activities, organizations to join or volunteer with?
- Community services – Do you have access to a library, banking, support services, shopping, and health care facilities? Are their options for personal care, homemaking assistance, and help with meals?
- Safety – What is the crime rate? Is it safe to walk at night? Are there sidewalks, adequate lighting?
- Unexpected – How will you plan for an unexpected change in your financial situation? What if you end up with a disability or chronic illness?
As one progresses through retirement, living arrangements become more important than ever. Practically speaking, retirees either stay in place or re-locate for a reason. While the process may be challenging, a detailed and thoughtful plan will prove to be well worth the effort. Ultimately, with a great plan, each retiree will make a housing decision that best reflects his or her own circumstances, needs and desires.