Older people, if they move from the family home—-the one where the dog died—-typically do it at two defined times. They may first get the urge to move when they are newly retired and want to trade in the bigger house for a smaller one and maybe take a fling at a geographic adventure. This is when folks move to Arizona, Florida and various Del Webby places. No ice to fall on. Flowers in the wintertime. Yesssss!
Later in life, when people are in their 70’s on up–deep into the pill-taking stage—they may want to be nearer adult children. Someone to watch over me and so on.
They pick the child who seems most interested in parental welfare and move closer.
Whatever the reason for the move—snowbirding or hoping for a little help through later life—here’s what to think about. Begin with this basic:
The truth about today’s real estate market is that people may need tranquilizers the size of horse pills when they find out what their house is currently worth. Oh, the horror of a 40% drop in value. That’s when people will need to make a decision whether to still try and sell or maybe rent or actually forgo the winter tan and stay put. However, what will encourage them to sell is that there are great bargains to be had at the other end of the move. The prices of houses in sunny places—think the gambling cities of Nevada—have fallen fast and long. So a lateral move from diminished price home to diminished price home is more palatable. Well, not really palatable, but maybe swallowable if you hold your nose.
Also, when imagining a new home, people need to think about what kind of environment makes older people happy and healthy. Scientists have looked at this issue and come up with the following points, all of which make sense to me as I feel my way through my own life. So here’s what to keep in mind—
First, go for a home that is near people—you will need a social life–and near services for seniors. Do not go for an isolated home in the boonies even if you can get the acreage for a song. We who are older don’t need to go back to the earth 20 miles from town. We are past the tepee stage of life.
I give this anti-islation sermon to Cranky Pants, but he still wants a fishing cabin in the wilderness. I say get it out of your system on vacation and send me smoke signals about how it’s going back there at the trout shack.
Second, look for good medical care. That means the doctors there will still take new Medicare patients and the hospital has a good rep. If you want to know about specific doctors, ask a nurse. Nurses know the scuttlebutt about who is a prince and who a pain in the stethoscope.
Third, look for decent nearby shopping which could include farmers’ markets to get healthy veggies and fruits and and maybe a Trader Joe’s to fill the grocery cart without paying a king’s ransom and yes, a drug store, preferably one with short lines at the prescription counter. (We now have one where the lines are so long, they find the dehydrated bodies of seniors lying in aisles at the end of the day.)
Fourth, look for good public transport systems. You may be driving now and can’t imagine the day when you hang up the car keys, but begin to imagine. How many 90-year-olds are still driving? And don’t you hope to be 90 plus? So, a good public transportation system is something to look for. It means you don’t have to drive to shopping, medical care and movies. You are chauffeured, m’dear.
Fifth, look for a place that is walkable. If there is anything we learn from other people and other cultures where longevity is routinely achieved, it’s that these people walk. Walkable means out of traffic, pretty flat, without lots of high curbs, hidden bumps and iffy sidewalks upturned by tree roots. Some people use malls and parks as a walking place. Others are lucky enough to step outside their doors into an easily-walked neighborhood or even onto nature’s walkway, a beach. On the other hand, even New York City is walkable. My father walked all over Manhattan and lived into his 90’s, still walking until called to higher places.
Sixth: Stairs are not senior-friendly. Sometimes we go down the stairs head first, so look for single level homes. Young seniors down-sizing to townhouses often forget that two levels will not do when they are recovering from knee surgery later on in life. How long can you sleep on a couch when you can’t make it up the stairs?
Take-away thoughts: The basic task of choosing a new home after 60 is to imagine specifically what you’ll need as an older person. Because if you take care of yourself, you will get older and you don’t want to be out of luck then when it comes to location and services. The other important thing is not to have a nervous breakdown when you come up against the realities of the current real estate market. At least don’t break down alone. Call me and we’ll scream together.