The fruits of your labor are ready to pick. You’ve reached a point in life when you can comfortably retire, and you want to find a new place to live. Retired and ready to relocate is a status you share with millions of your peers. Many seek warmer climates for their older years, but not everyone. Some retirees choose to move closer to grandchildren or retire in a place with a low cost of living.
Regardless of your destination, you’ll want to find a house with the features that fit your stage of life. When you were younger, you likely chose housing based on proximity to employment or schools or your own aging parents. Now you have new needs and priorities. So, on top of deciding where to live in retirement, you need to know the things to look for in a new retirement home.
Home Features for Aging in Place
You may be feeling fit as a fiddle right now, but the coming decades will slow you down. Maybe a little or maybe a lot. A house that’s great right now can become quite bothersome or unlivable if you get a bad hip or knee or become wheelchair bound.
In anticipation of potential old-age disabilities, look for:
- Single-story homes – You won’t have any stairs to bother your hips or knees.
- Home on a slab foundation – These homes tend to be very handicapped accessible. They are close to the ground, which means minimal porch steps. Ramps are easy to put in place. They often have a barrier free flow from inside to a patio.
- Walk-in shower – Having at least one bathroom with a walk-in shower or barrier-free shower spares you from future difficulties getting in and out of a tub. These shower stalls easily accommodate a shower chair, and they reduce trip hazards.
If you find a single-story home that you like but it has a basement, think about where you could add a main-floor laundry. Most homes with basements have the laundry facilities in the basement, but, as you age, hauling laundry up and down the stairs gets difficult or dangerous. A small stackable washer/dryer unit like those in apartments only needs a small footprint. You may be able to add one in an existing bath, kitchen, or mud room.
Some people who plan to retire and relocate have the resources to build a custom home. This introduces full control to build a home with many small features that are senior friendly. Builder KDA Homes has a great article about aging in place home features that it includes in new construction. Some features you may not have thought of, like placing electrical outlets higher up the wall to limit the need to bend over and sit-down kitchen work areas.
To be fair, you don’t have to rule out a two-story home when you relocate for retirement, but you still want to look for home designs that favor aging in place. Look for a house with a main-floor master suite. This way if stairs become an issue in the future, you simply won’t need to go upstairs as part of daily living. The upstairs can be for guest rooms and storage while you continue enjoying your home on the ground floor.
Retired and Ready to Relocate for Access to Recreation
The best homes for active seniors place you near things that you like to do. When outside employment is no longer the focus of your life, you can choose to live in a place with the recreational opportunities that you enjoy. Whether this is being close to professional athletic venues or fishing lakes depends on your tastes.
Older adults look to live in places that have the public and private amenities that they desire, including:
- Parks for hiking, birdwatching, and fishing
- Golf courses
- Bicycle lanes
- Waterfront areas
- Theme parks
Planned communities, both those that are 55+ or open to all ages, often appeal to retirees because they can offer an active and social lifestyle. Many communities are oriented around golf courses or lakes. They often have clubhouses where hobbyist groups can meet as well as fitness centers and spas.
Choosing to live in a place that gives you multiple recreational opportunities will keep you active in your old age. It makes it easier to form new friendships because you can easily organize group outings around the things that you like to do.
Do not discount the importance of living someplace where you can focus on activities important for your lifestyle. You’ll be happier and have more social connections, which support long-term happiness and health.
Safety and Security
No one wants to live in a place plagued by crime, but it becomes increasingly important as you age. Older people are more vulnerable to muggings and various scams and frauds. A home located in a place with minimal social problems and restricted access keeps you safer.
As you look at homes in the towns or neighborhoods that interest you, make sure to explore the areas near the homes. Are you seeing homeless camps or severely bad neighborhoods with high crime rates? If they are too close to your home, you have a greater risk of property crimes, like home and vehicle break-ins, or encountering people hoping to commit fraud, such as steal your mail or hit you up for donations to a fake charity.
Gated communities have become prevalent because they insulate residents from many of the exterior social ills of society. Restricted access to the community means that you don’t have to worry about strangers driving or walking by your home. Solicitors should be barred from knocking on doors and trying to sell their dubious proposals.
Communities like these typically have walking trails, pools, or small parks where you can enjoy the outdoors and get exercise in a private setting.
Health Care Services
You may be in great health now, but the advance of years will inevitably lead to health issues. Seniors benefit from living in an area with many medical care providers and multiple hospitals. You don’t have to drive long distances to attend appointments and will have better access to medical specialists. Additionally, in a crisis, you should receive emergency care faster.
Once you’re retired and ready to relocate, take a close look at the medical services in the places that you’re considering moving to. Rural areas increasingly have a dearth of medical services, and this situation is very problematic for older adults. As more rural hospitals close due to the nature of the profit-driven health care industry, rural residents usually have to drive an hour or more just to reach an emergency room.
For this reason, retirees frequently choose quiet neighborhoods and suburbs in the vicinity of metropolitan areas. Medical providers and hospitals tend to cluster in high population areas where they can maximize their profits.
If you’ve been dreaming of retiring to the country, you may want to make sure that you aren’t TOO far away from civilization.