Richard Leider, in his book Repacking Your bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life, says the Good Life is:
Living in the place you belong
With the people you love
Doing the right work
He puts the place piece first: it provides a space and community to support your work (meaningful activity – paid or unpaid) and your relationships, and space where you can find meaning or purpose in your life.
When I started to do some research on the topic of retirement housing, I found two types of books and articles. The first category is all about the geography of the destination – Worst States for Retirement, Top Metropolitan Areas for Retirement, etc. These cover what I call the externals – what does a particular place have to offer, or not offer in the case of negative reports.
The second group of articles concerned ‘where to put mom or dad’ — finding a living situation for an aging parent or relative who needs some level of care. Neither of these types of material deals with the psychological aspects and meaning of home and how they change as we age. Stephen M. Golant, in his excellent book Aging in the Right Place, uses the term residential normalcy:
When people find their right places to live, they have achieved residential normalcy. This happens in places where they experience overall pleasurable, hassle-free and memorable feelings that have relevance to them; and where they feel both competent and in control – that is, they do not have to behave in personally objectionable ways or to unduly surrender mastery of their lives or environments to others.
You probably will make several moves after you retire. While most people tend to stay in their own communities when they retire, preferably in their current homes, some will move to more suitable housing in the same community. Others will opt to relocate to areas with warmer climates, lower taxes and living costs, and amenities that they value. Florida and the southwest have been the favored locations until recently. Then, as they age, or as their spouses die, they move closer to an adult child. Even in multi-tiered senior communities, couples may move into a cottage or villa, and when one partner dies, the surviving spouse may move into a condominium within the community. If it is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), the move may be from independent living (cottage or condominium) to assisted living, and then possibly to nursing care unit.
The fact is that you will need different types of housing and services as you age. Retirement has been described a sequence – the go-go years, the slow-go years and the no-go years. Ideally, your plan for retirement will be comprehensive, taking into account what your housing needs will be at each stage of the sequence. Housing that is appropriate for a couple in the go-go years could be totally inadequate for a single person in the no-go years. And at that point, you may be forced to make a move that will be much more wrenching than if you had planned for those needs up front. And, the older one is when making a move, the more difficult the adjustment. For frail elderly person, a move can hasten their decline dramatically.
Retirement choices are both a financial matter and a lifestyle matter. These issues are most closely related when it comes to housing – where you live may be driven by what you can afford. The choice is to get the best mix of services and amenities for your money at each stage of life.