One of the most important decisions that must be made at some point is where to live for a satisfying retirement. Previous posts have addressed some of the factors you should consider when making that initial decision. Links to these are available under Related Posts and Links at the end of this post.
This time I would like to look at some of the types of housing choices that you could face. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. One may be better than another depending on your health, your financial resources, your closeness to family and their willingness to be involved in your care.
For many retirees, aging in place is the preferred choice. Simply, this means the best place to retire is where you live now for the foreseeable future. The reason are numerous. Maybe you have no mortgage and the home is yours free and clear. That is a major recurring expense that you do not have to worry about. It can also be the source of substantial equity you could tap in a reverse mortgage. You raised your family in that house. Your memories, and theirs, are tied to that home. It is is more than four walls, it is where people come to feel safe and loved.
Your friends and your church are close. The neighborhood is like an old shoe: you know where to shop, where the doctor's office is, which coffee shop is least crowded on a Monday morning, and where to get your car repaired. You can't even imagine the hassle of packing up everything you'll accumulated over the last umpteen years and starting all over again.
The disadvantages, unfortunately, are not trivial. It is a fact that at some point you are likely to need help with your care. The day you can no longer drive, that home becomes a prison unless you are lucky enough to be near mass transportation or have friends and family willing to become your wheels. The mortgage may be paid, but a house needs maintenance as long as it is standing. A new roof, paint job, furnace or windows won't wait. The crack in the sidewalk needs patching. The sprinkler system has a leak somewhere. As you become older, help in basic physical needs may be an unpleasant reality. Counting out pills, help with personal hygiene and meal preparation are needs that must be met. If your home is two-story it is likely there will come a day when getting up those stairs becomes impossible.
Another choice is a Continuing Care Community (CCC). In this environment you pay to move into a community that includes independent living, assisted living, and nursing home facilities. The advantages are many. Once accepted you are guaranteed a place to live and be cared for the rest of your life. The communities are usually safe and well-maintained. All maintenance, both inside and outside your living area are taken care of. Medical staff and emergency personnel are available 24 hours day. Transportation within the community and to local shopping or doctor offices is often provided.
Disadvantages primarily involve the cost. For a well-run community expect to pay at least $200,000 entry fee and a monthly rent of at least $2,000. High end communities that feel more like resort living may be substantially pricier. Some extra services or specialized needs you have will cost extra. If you change your mind or want to move somewhere else, your initial investment is probably lost.
Somewhere between aging in place and a continuing care community is an age-restricted community. Because of various exceptions in the law, it is legal to require someone to be older than a certain age to purchase property in places like Sun City. Usually this type of "active adult community" includes lots of recreational and educational opportunities but is not equipped to provide assisted living or nursing care on site. Usually you will require a car for the majority of your transportation needs. Depending on your preferences, not having younger families or folks in their 30's and 40's living their may be great for you, or may leave you feeling cut off from normal society.
By no means am I an expert on all the factors that you should consider in making such an important decision on the best place to retire. My parents lived in both an age-restricted community and then, as they looked ahead to health challenges, moved into a continuing care community where my dad continues to live after my mom died last December. Both choices worked out well for them and my family. I will be eternally thankful that they planned ahead and moved into the CCC while still able. It is quite likely that my wife and I will move to the same location at some point in the future so we don't burden our kids with declining health issues.
It isn't an easy subject to think about, but it is part of life. Wait too long, and the decision may be made for you. Where do you stand? Have you made your decision yet? Are you still thinking through all your options?
Related Posts and Links: