Making a retirement move can be daunting. It involves a complicated decision-making process. When should you make the move? Where do you want to live? What kind of care will you need? How much can you afford? The mere thought that a retirement move could be your last move is enough to stop many seniors in their tracks.

Deciding where to move is never easy. There are arguments for staying in the community where you’ve lived for most of your life. You still have friends in the area. You have doctors with whom you’ve developed relationships over the years. You know the area; it’s familiar. This can be a comfort during later years.

On the other hand, many seniors prefer to be close to children and grandchildren. This could mean moving to a community in which they’ve never lived before. The trade off is having family close by, which can add significantly to one’s quality of life.

Seniors who are still independent, but who want a simpler lifestyle, may decide to make their retirement move in two phases. One couple, who weren’t ready to move to a retirement facility, sold their Piedmont, Calif., home and bought a condominium in the same area.

In doing so, they freed themselves of the burden of maintaining their large family home, which left more time and money for travel and other pursuits. They were also able to adapt to living in smaller quarters before they moved to an even smaller apartment in a continuous care facility.

A recent article in the New York Times reported that two-phase retirement moves are becoming increasingly common as seniors live longer. Independent seniors first move to an active retirement community in states like Florida and Arizona where the winters are mild. When they need more care, they move to a second retirement community closer to their children.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Seniors who are contemplating moving to a smaller home before full retirement should consider buying early as a hedge against inflation. A retired nurse who lived in a large house with stairs bought a smaller, single level home years before she needed it. She rented the smaller property to a tenant until she sold her family home. Using this strategy, she came out ahead financially. She paid less for her retirement home than she would have if she had bought it later. And she netted a higher price on the larger, more expensive home than she would have it she had sold it earlier.

The retired nurse mentioned above had no difficulty implementing her retirement move. She had worked in hospitals where she’d cared for far too many seniors who hadn’t planned for their later years. They waited until they were desperate to make the move, only to find that their options were limited.

It’s wise to plan a retirement move well in advance. Most good retirement facilities have waiting lists. It could be difficult to find a place where you’d like to live on short notice. Also, many facilities will only accept seniors who are in good health, and who are not yet 83 years old.

A Piedmont, Calif., senior didn’t want to be a burden on his children as he aged. He researched his retirement options and picked a retirement facility years before he needed it. He even selected the precise unit in which he wanted to live. He was put on a waiting list and waited for over two years. During this time, he de-cluttered his home and prepared it for sale. When he received the call that his unit was available, he was ready to go.

THE CLOSING: To find retirement options by area, visit www.NewLifeStyles.com or www.seniorhousing.net.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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