It's fun to imagine the possibilities for exciting and exotic, yet affordable places you can live after you retire. But most people don't actually follow through with a move to a new place. According to an AARP study on aging in place, nearly 90 percent of people over 65 want to stay in their home for as long as possible, and 80 percent believe that their current residence is where they will always live.
Just as there are good reasons to move after you retire, there are several compelling reasons to stay right where you are. You may love your current home and have a strong emotional connection to it. Perhaps you want to remain close to your network of family, friends and support systems rather than start over with making new friends, learning a new area and finding new doctors and other service providers. If you are planning to start a business, you will need the network you have built up over many years. Sometimes moving is not financially feasible. Or perhaps it boils down to inertia and it's easiest just to stay put.
If you want to remain in your current home for the rest of your life, here are several considerations that will help you decide whether this is the best choice for you.
1. Does your current community have good infrastructure for supporting seniors? This includes good public transportation or perhaps the availability of city-sponsored transport vans, good health care and a strong senior center that provides activities as well as support services. You should also consider whether you live close enough to public transportation and if the places you visit regularly are on transportation routes.
2. Is your house adaptable to meet your needs as you grow older? A one-story floor plan, or at least a floor plan with a bedroom and all necessary facilities on the first floor, will make it easier if you should require a walker or wheelchair during your later years. You might need to make other adjustments, such as replacing door knobs with lever handles, adding ramps and retrofitting your bathroom with handrails. If you or your spouse should someday require a wheelchair, you should evaluate whether doorways are wide enough and if countertops, cabinets, closets and bathroom facilities will still be accessible.
3. Are your house and yard small enough to maintain as you get older? This concern can be managed if you have nearby family members who are willing to assist you or you can afford to hire people to help you with cleaning and maintenance. Keep in mind that family members may move.
4. Is your current house in good condition and energy efficient? Depending on your house's age and condition, you may incur costs to repair or replace an aging furnace, air conditioner, carpet, appliances or roof. Occasional home maintenance tasks such as repainting or removing dead plants may become things you can no longer do yourself.
5. Are most things you need available within a reasonable distance? Driving all over town and maneuvering on high-traffic freeways will become more challenging as you get older.
6. Are the amenities you wish to enjoy during retirement close by? While you worked, you were probably most concerned with living a reasonable distance from your workplace. After you retire, your work commute will be replaced by trips to play sports, take classes, hike and participate in other activities that you select to be part of your retirement lifestyle.
7. Will your neighborhood still be safe? As you get older, safety will become an increasing concern. While it is impossible to know what transformations your area of town may undergo in the coming years, you may be able to assess whether your surroundings are improving, holding steady or declining.
8. Does your area have good assisted living or nursing homes that you would want to live in? It may be decades before you need them, and a lot may change over the course of those years. When you reach the age where you will need to move into such a facility, your search will probably be limited to your current area. Try to determine whether your local facilities are pleasant and affordable and if there is a long waiting list for spaces.
After considering all of these questions, you may still conclude that remaining in your home is the right choice for you. There are also steps you can take now in order to ensure that your home will continue to serve you well as your needs change.
Of course, you can remain in your current city and downsize to a smaller home. That way, you'll retain your familiarity with the area, proximity to your social and support network and your preferred medical professionals. If you anticipate moving locally, it will probably be to your advantage to relocate sooner rather than later while you have more stamina for a move. Downsizing will probably reduce your housing costs, leaving you more money to enjoy your retirement in other ways.
Dave Hughes is the founder of Retire Fabulously.
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