August 19, 2014 — Whether you have decided to stay where you live now or maybe move out of state, you need to make a wise choice about where you retire. Part of that decision hinges on you being realistic, and demanding, about the requirements you need to make all the years of your retirement fulfilling – not just the first 10 years or so.
As we baby boomers age we are definitely moving the average age of America upwards. With 76 or so million boomers growing older in a total population of about 308 million, the median age in this country is changing – it was 37 in 2010; by 2050 it will be 41 (according to Pew Research Center). Meanwhile the senior population in the U.S. will more than double, from 41 million to 86 million.
Will your community be up to the task?
We hope you have done the preparation to maximize your retirement. But will your town also be ready for you as a resident in your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond? This article contains some key factors you should be evaluating.
There are a lot of communities that, as they currently stand, are not a good place for you to retire. They just don’t have the environment and infrastructure to let you maintain the lifestyle and freedom you want to have. Think about this question which a friend posed this week: “Will self-driving cars solve the transportation problems of aging baby boomers”. We thought it was a great question, because if cars will truly be able to drive us hither and yon without us at the wheel, we can live anywhere! Meanwhile that dream remains a hard to believe fantasy.
Checklist for your new community
To maintain the quality of life that you are used to there are a number of factors that need to be in place in your new community. Some help to make up for declining life skills as you age, while others address your changed situation – from busy worker to a person with leisure time at your command.
- Public Transportation. Does your community have any public transportation, and if so, what kind? Are there taxis, call for ride, public buses, light rail, or subways? Picture yourself unable to drive – how are you going to buy groceries, see friends, and get to doctor’s appointments.
- Healthcare. Most communities cover healthcare for emergencies and minor incidents. But how about a major medical condition like a heart attack or stroke? Will you have to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment, or do you run the risk of having a major procedure done in a small facility that doesn’t handle that level of care frequently? How about proximity to all of those “…ologists” we baby boomers tend to need. Do you really want to drive 3 hours to see your cardiologist, dermatologist, orthopedist, urologist, etc?
- Property tax relief. For most retired baby boomers it is your property tax that might drive you out of your home. This is particularly true in the Northeast, which tends to have the highest property taxes in the nation. A few states and some cities have senior tax relief programs for people over 65. Almost all have income caps, so if you have more than a poverty level income they probably won’t help you. Sometimes they are oversubscribed and thus the actual benefit is quite minimal. One of the best programs is the Homestead protections offered by FL and CA – at least the assessed value of your home is stable.
- Recreation programs. Heh, you’re retired and now is the time to have some fun. Think about recreation for the rest of your life, too. So when your knees finally give out and tennis is a fond memory, is there a senior or community center where you can play billiards, cards, or bocci? Is there an aquatic center with a pool that’s swimmable year round? How about a municipal golf course or fitness center? Are there parks that you would like to spend time in, perhaps with trails and interesting views?
- Livability. This means many different things to many different people. Walkability is one factor in livability. Others include: crime rates .. good shopping and restaurants… and access to the things that make live worth living. If there is no town nearby or it is so hard to get there, living your life is going to be a challenge or not so interesting.
- Pedestrian and bike access. This is another aspect of livability. If you want to, can you safely bike or walk to a park, store, or library? More and more cities and towns are investing in bike lanes and sidewalks – and they definitely improve the quality of life.
- Library programs. Today’s libraries are more about getting people together than just loaning books. Towns that support their libraries tend to have many interesting programs for residents of all ages, adding much to cultural and community life.
- Bookstore. We like bookstores, even though they are becoming an endangered species. Perhaps there is another kind of store that you like to frequent. We just hope your retirement town has some place that you will enjoy frequenting.
- Aging in place organizations like the village movement. More and more communities are developing “village” concepts that facilitate community and aging in place. They offer volunteer ride programs, cooperative help with home chores, shopping, companionship, and a lot more. They are inexpensive to join and quite essential if you want to maintain your lifestyle and live in your own home.
- Are there any future housing options? If you are lucky you will have 20, maybe even 30 or more years of retirement to enjoy. But if you live long enough the chances are you won’t be able to stay in your own home all that time. So when an illness or just old age forces that move, what are your options? In general, the more choices, the greater the likelihood that one of them will fit your situation. The worst case scenarios – you have to move out of town, or settle for a facility where you won’t be happy.
You not only have to be prepared to maximize your retirement, but you need to pick a place to live that can deliver on quality of life. Use this checklist to make sure you make a good decision.
For further reading:
10 Affordable, and Livable Places to Retire
10 Great Walkable Towns for Retirement
Top 10 Retirement Towns for Amenities
It Takes a (Virtual) Village to Stay in Your Home
Comments? How does your town stack up against these requirements? Do you have other necessities that any potential retirement town is going to have to deliver against? Please share your thoughts and reactions in the Comments section below.