September 5, 2017

5 Questions To Ask Before You Move


Even though only a small percentage of folks decide to move shortly after retirement, it remains a topic of real interest to many blog readers. Part of the image we carry into retirement is a move to a beach side cottage or mountain chalet. We leave behind cold weather or the desert heat and live out our years of freedom in a place that keeps appearing in our dreams.

One of my most emphatic cautions to someone who has recently retired is to not move right away. There are so many adjustments retirement requires that to add the stress of a relocation is dangerous to one's health and happiness. Certainly, after careful consideration and time, moving to a place that would make someone happy is encouraged. 

Even then, there are five key questions that need to be asked. If living with someone, his or her responses are just as important. To move when only half of a couple agrees can lead to an unhappy environment. 


1) How much will you miss the familiarity of where you live now? 

If you live someplace long enough I'm sure you'd had this feeling: the car could drive itself by now. Where you do your grocery shopping, where the movie theater and home improvement stores are, which are the best nearby parks, how close are  the doctors' offices you visit, your church, your favorite restaurants, even how the streets are named and laid out....all these patterns of daily life give us comfort. Patterns and familiarity are two character traits all humans share.

When you move, all that changes. Some people find that newness exciting; it stimulates them. Others become frustrated and critical: the stores were better at home, I can't remember where the streets go, our only choice to eat out is at chain restaurants, and so on.

Don't discount the role of familiarity in your satisfaction. Consider how important it is to your happiness before giving it up.

2) Will moving make seeing family easier or harder? 

Not surprisingly, one of the key reasons retirees eventually move is because of family. Often, the motivation is to be closer to grown children, grandkids, or other relatives. Occasionally, it is the opposite: to establish some breathing space and escape from too much closeness. Either motivations needs discussion. Ask yourself if you are moving to something, or away from something.

Moving closer to family means more time with each other. Shared birthdays, holidays, and special occasions are easier to schedule. Maybe you'd like to help with babysitting or transportation needs. Very possibility, you sense that the grandkids don't really know you very well or see you often enough to form a real bond.

The flipside are folks who have experienced all of that closeness, and now want to cut back on the sense of obligation and regular contact. Even loving families need time apart, If you feel your closeness is being taken advantage of, then moving far enough away to make a return visit a special occasion may be exactly what is best. 


3) Will you enjoy the new climate full time? 

The idea of living by the ocean, dressed in a T-shirt, bathing suit, and flipflops every day of your life sounds perfect to many. Being a stone's through from a ski resort with all those beautifully groomed trails makes your heart race. Making your home in a location with all four seasons sounds heavenly after years in someplace that is lucky to have two (think Phoenix, Miami, or Southern California!). That two weeks you spent on Kauai convinced you heaven on earth does exist.

Moving for a change in the climate is a reason often given. The reality is, however, that the change you want may be too much of a good thing. If you haven't shoveled snow for several decades, lived with air conditioning for 9 months of the year, or endured months of cloudy, rainy skies, you may find your dream becomes a nightmare when it is your forever home. 

I strongly recommend you rent an apartment, condo, or home, for at least a full year before committing to a permanent relocation. 


4) Are there good medical and support systems?

Finding a new doctor or dentist is never a pleasant task. With the state of our healthcare system, moving to another part of the country becomes even more of a chore, if you are not yet qualified for Medicare. Does my insurance company operate in that locale? Are there enough doctors and specialists who are accepting new patients? 

While the dream of relocating to a rural area, living on a few acres, and being away from the suburban hassle may sound idyllic, consider the availability of medical care. Being far away from a clinic or hospital can be a very real problem. Being miles from the closest doctor may be a deal breaker.

5) Is the cost of living within your budget?

As much as you and your significant other may love the idea of  urban living in San Francisco, New York City, San Diego, or Honolulu, the cost of housing in those markets means many retirees could not even consider such a move. Do you just want a small fixer upper in the Bay Area? Do you have close to a million dollars? Honolulu is a relative bargain: $600,000 should get you a tiny place within a mile or two of the water. Of course, with those sky high housing costs come higher prices for everyday necessities. Apartment and condo prices are just as shocking.

The opposite situation drives some to move to other parts of the country. Housing prices in parts of the Midwest, Great Plains and South can be a bargain. You may be able to afford the home or land of your dreams for much less than what housing costs you now. 

Don't forget utility costs. Heating, cooling, water...all the costs to keep your new home comfortable should be carefully reviewed. And, property taxes can be quite a shock. Tens of thousands of dollars a year in real estate taxes can punch a major hole in your budget if you used to paying much less.


A move is considered to be one of the most stressful things we can do. That is doubly true after retirement. The costs and upheaval of relocating should not be ignored. That said, if you are comfortable with the answers to the questions above, crave a fresh start and are exciting by the possibilities of change, then go for it. Being unhappy where you are is no prescription for a satisfying retirement, either.


41 comments:

  1. You really touched on important points and I had to laugh when I read the first one! 4 1/2 months into our cross country move to be near family we can now find out way around mostly but are still searching for favorite restaurants and adjusting to the lack of familiarity. I think one other important point is the challenge of making close friends unless you are really outgoing and have intense interests or avocations. They will come with time but its not instant.

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    1. Making new friends is a problem in retirement. The normal path of work-related friendships is gone. If you move, friendships formed through church or other social /volunteer activities are ended and you are starting over in a new place. This is a challenge not to be taken lightly.

      When me moved just 25 miles to be closer to our grandkids at least the metropolitan area was familiar. But, the streets were all strange. We had to relearn almost as much as relocating out of state. For probably the first six months I would always picture where the "old" store was when I needed to make my way to a Home Depot or Walgreens.

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  2. Some thing that the lack of familiarity and frequent change is a good thing. We like the challenge of discovering new things. Some like everything in its place so that they can go through life on auto-pilot. To each his own I guess.

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    1. True: different strokes. I'm not sure I'd agree with the auto-pilot reference. Comfort in routine is pleasing to a lot of folks. It allows them to spend their time on more productive activities.

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  3. Solid advice all around Bob. Something I did hear once: "If you want to know if someone will move when they retire find out where the oldest daughter lives." Being close to grandchildren is a powerful force.

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    1. Yes, it is. We know. After 30+ years in one part of the Phoenix area we moved to be 40 minutes closer to our grandkids. It was not an easy decision, leaving our church, friends, and routine, but the right one for us. We love being so close.

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    2. Lol. My oldest and only daughter lives in Salt Lake. All three of my sons live in Alabama, in the same area. I live about an hour from them, but have considered moving to Salt Lake, just because of her. I did attend college at BYU, in Provo, Utah, so I am not unfamiliar with Utah, but that was 40 years ago! I hated the cold winters then and I was much younger.

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  4. Well, as you know, we ignored this VERY IMPORTANT advice and right after we retired we moved to a place that: Lacked the familiarity and friendship and church and entertainment connections I had built over 34 years! It had a higher cost of living.I ended up hating the climate, and there were no good medical or support services available. You might say we let our emotions run away with us.. luckily we were able to un-do things and go back to square one.. with a LOT MORE self knowledge about what we need to be happy in retirement. Ken did enjoy the woods and the quiet, but since we've been back "home" here in the valley he agrees we are much healthier and overall happier in a place with services,people, and more activities available. It's an easy 2 hour drive to get to so many beautiful places form here..I agree with your article whole heartedly,Bob, and hope even just one person can avoid the turmoil we did by slowing down a little with a decision that is that big!! Remember, you're retired-- YOU HAVE TIME!!

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    1. Yes, your experience certainly is a good cautionary tale of what can happen. You were very lucky to be able to undo that decision and pick up where you left off as quickly as you did.

      Several years ago, I was in contact with a reader who moved from the area he and his wife loved to be closer to a grown son who lived 1,000 miles away. The climate was radically different, the son had his own life, and they missed their friends and lifestyle. Within 6 months that couple moved back "home."

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    2. Yes, spend a good amount of time finding out of your grown children want you that close. That comment about "the oldest daughter" says it. Not always, but often daughters stay closer to their parents and try harder to keep the family ties.

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    3. Madeline, you point out something else to remember... Being on vacation somewhere is not like living there. I think we can all get drawn in when we visit a bucolic little village or take in a mountain vista thinking "Isn't it lovely here". But as you discovered the day to day living can be quite a different thing. Glad you were able to recover without losing too much in the process.

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    4. I have had that vacation-home thought whenever we have toyed with the idea of living in Hawaii. Both Betty and I absolutely love the islands, but wonder if living in perpetual summer with virtually no seasonal differences would drive us bonkers. It is bad enough in Phoenix where summer last 6 months!

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    5. Ddavidson and Bob, Yes! That is a cautionary tale I share with others. We loved visiting the mountains on weekends, for 20 years. Living there,getting to know the ins and outs of a small,conservative town, all kind of soured the whole thing for me.. I don't even want to go back much, now.but it WAS a great vacation spot for a long time.Now, we visit all over the state and LIVE where we have services and a better quality of life overall.

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  5. Great points Bob, and I can confirm that point one is a biggie - even after wanting to live by the coast for some 20+ years before we finally got up the courage to actually go ahead and do it this year, we were both caught off guard by how much the loss of familiarity affected us afterward. It didn't last terribly long - about a week - but it was very disconcerting as we were going through it.

    Our move occurred during our sixth year of retirement, so I think the advice to wait a bit and take time to really settle into retirement is very sound. We had the travel itch something awful when we first retired, and it took a full five years before that itch subsided enough for the possibility of relocating closer to the coast to take precedence. Given the amount of work that a relocation requires, I would likely have resented the move had it occurred any earlier.

    I will say, however, that turning our dream of living coastal into reality has been absolutely life changing. Living without the need for A/C in the summer, seeing the ocean daily, enjoying the slightly more laid back energy, the incredible breezes and sunsets, it's everything we thought it would be and more. I'll be forever grateful that we took the plunge, even as I never wish to again go through the stress and work it took do so!

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    1. Some important points, Tamara. Waiting is so important but I appreciate you brought a specific reason to that caution: travel. Going through the hassle of a move and loss of familiarity all while involved with lots of travel could be quite stressful and diminish both experiences. I wouldn't have thought of that as an important reason to delay a move, but now it is rather obvious.

      Also, your efforts resulted in making a dream come true, and if not during retirement, then when? I did note that you took twenty years before taking the plunge, but you and Mike did it. I know how important this has been for you guys. Betty and I can't wait to see your new place in January!

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  6. We moved nine times in our first sixteen years of marriage. After "retiring" we stayed put for seven years. We were very involved with the community. Kids moved, early retirement at 58 did not suit my husband well. We moved for jobs to a "low cost of living area". . After the move we found out that the property taxes were double of Flagstaff. We also found every electric line to our house had a charge ($27.50 per line without any electricity) AND coal electricity is way higher then hydro/nuc. Don't get me started on personal property taxes. Health care was the pits. We were moderately involved in the community. We messed up on every one of your points. Seven years, we moved again.
    We wanted to live near our (only) daughter, but the taxes In her state were worse then Kansas. We chose 70 miles away. Close to water, low taxes (no sales tax), low cost Nuclear power. We had done our homework. I have to admit, we are not very involved in the community. Being a Westerner- I tend to be way more a moderate progressive and take on issues, heads in the sand around here.....frustrating.
    We know we will move at least one more time, probably west again. Our son and our son in law will retire (for their first times). The consensus seems to be Washington or Colorado. Neither are good for taxes, but at that point hubby will be in his late 70s and we will have very few needs for large houses or big purchases. The Army taught us to make our home where ever our hats were. We seem to be continuing in the tradition.

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    1. Thanks for detailing the problems with your Kansas experience. There is so much more than simply location to consider when we move, as you found out! I am always shocked when I see what folks have to pay in property taxes in many other parts of the country. You also raise an important point: politics and social issues. It is possible to live in a right-leaning state if you tend to be liberal, or the opposite, but that can be somewhat isolating and frustrating. Betty and I have done it for 31 years in Arizona and a total of 5 years before that in Utah. There are times we could scream, but have learned to keep our opinions (mainly) to ourselves.

      Arizona may be hot (!) but property taxes and utility costs are low. Housing prices are below average, too, though your old stomping ground of Flagstaff has become a rather expensive part of the state because of demand.

      Thanks for such an informative comment.

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    2. Living in conservative Phoenix area is tough enough. The UBER right point of view up in the mountain town is..frightening!!

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  7. Our transition was gradual. We lived in the city but, had a beach house for 15 years. When Dave retired we spent most of our summers at the beach in Ocean City, NJ, thinking the grandkids could come and spend time with us. As the kids got older they were so scheduled with sports and activities we hardly saw them at all. Ocean City is not a year 'round place, though some people live there all year it didn't work for us. We often visited Cape May, especially in the fall. After a lovely visit in late 2013 we decided to sell both houses and move to Cape May. There is more of a year 'round vibe here, it's not that far from Philly so we visit often, and it's turned out almost perfectly. The almost relates to healthcare, and shopping. We haven't found the same level of doctors here but, if needed we could get to Philly. As for shopping, I think I am one of the reasons Mr.Bazos was able to buy the Washington Post. ;)
    b

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    1. What about closeness to grandkids and your adult children? How has being at the tip of southern New Jersey worked out in that regard?

      Decent healthcare is a real issue as we age, but the way things are going, I'm not sure many parts of the country will offer much in this area, except major metropolitan areas.

      I must say the pictures you post on Facebook every morning of Cape May make it place we'd love to visit, if it weren't 2,000 miles away!

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    2. Cape May was one of our beaches.Ocean City was the other!! You made a great choice,Barbara!! I agree Cape May seems to have more of a full time vibe..OC more summer time fun. Lucky you!!!!!!

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  8. Deb was already retired when we moved to TN seven years ago, and I joined her three years ago. How would I answer your five points:

    1. Familiarity - never a problem. We were ready to leave the North for many, many reasons.

    2. Family - while our only child was initially 15 hours away by car, she is now only 5 hours away after moving to NC. Problem solved!

    3. New Climate - let's see. We now have mild winters (and even those we avoid by traveling for most of the winter), and great weather the other three seasons. We left the snowiest metropolitan area in the country for paradise. Nuff said about that.

    4. Medical and Support Systems - although we moved to small town TN, it is largely known as a retirement abode. Excellent medical and the support systems are largely set up for the older population; oftentimes to the detriment of the younger folks.

    5. Cost of Living - our property taxes dropped 80% for twice the house and 10x the land, no state income tax, etc. I guess anyone can figure out the answer to the COL question.

    All in all, Bob, we feel like we moved to exactly where the Big Guy wants us to be, and we couldn't be happier.

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    1. Based on your answers and seeing the part of the country where you live during our last RV trip, you have hit the retirement jackpot. Tennessee winters aren't all that pleasant, but a heck of a lot better than upstate New York, and if you travel south during that time of year, then does it matter?

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    2. Did you by chance move to Crossville/Fairfield Glade, Tennessee?

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  9. I've never lived in any home as long as this one (now 12 years) once I was an adult. So I get the wanderlust every time we vacation, and I love to read real estate listings, but I know it's not likely we'll move. It's such a HUGE undertaking and we've pretty much (finally) gotten our house where we like it. So it's unlikely until/if we downsize again. It hits on all the positives above (family, health care, we like four seasons, etc.) and we are very familiar with our area.

    But somewhere inside me is always the itch to try something completely new. (I moved to the Bay Area knowing only 2 people and had quite the adjustment for the first of the four years I lived there, then loved it.) That urge is dissipating as I age. And we are traveling, so that helps.

    --Hope

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    1. You and RJ (see comment above) would probably get along. He is not one for any kind of rut.

      Betty and I gave some thought to trying a more urban instead of suburban lifestyle when we moved to our current house 2 years ago. I think the biggest reason we didn't pursue it seriously was because of the dog. It would have been more difficult to exercise her and allow her to run in open places if we'd been surrounded by concrete. I know lots of people manage it, but it seemed unfair to us.

      Of course, a smaller condo-type arrangement would have made visits by the grandkids tough also. Maybe when the dog is gone and the grandchildren all grown up enough to not visit as often, we re-visit that idea. But, no one will argue that a major move is a hassle.

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    2. Yes, our dog is a limiting factor on our life decisions. And our grandkids are fairly convenient at this point compared to how often we'd see them (not very) if we moved very far away. So that's a big factor.

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  10. I would add one more question (especially important to those who live alone): How easy will it be to continue seeing your friends or to make new friends? -Jean

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  11. Hi Bob! Really, really good questions that I think all of us should be asking ourselves even if we aren't retired yet. Where DO we want to live and what brings us the most contentment and happiness? So many people just buy a house where they've always lived or managed to get a job without really considering how it will work out in the long run. We don't have children so we've always had the flexibility to live where we want, but we are not at all interested in cold weather so that choice narrowed things down for us. We are also into real estate so moving isn't as costly or difficult as it is for some. But I am continually amazed at how many people choose to buy a home and move without fully investigating it first. Far, FAR better to rent a home or condo somewhere for at LEAST a month or more to see if it will suit you in the long run. Thanks again for sharing valuable info! ~Kathy

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    1. Since buying a house is usually someone's largest financial commitment it is surprising that more thought into all the ramifications of a purchase is not given ahead of time.

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  12. Whoops! Bob, we failed the test. We took final possession of a house in a different province the very same day that I retired. It is in a community where neither of us has lived before. The move itself was really stressful, but so far, we couldn't be happier. We love our new house, new community, and the closeness to friends and family.

    Our situation is a bit unique in that we had moved to the Canadian prairies for a work opportunity, and always knew that we would retire in BC, our home province, when I retired. We thought long and hard about where we would purchase our retirement home, and made many visits here, including renting a house for a month last Christmas. Also, as I was on sabbatical for most of my last year, I was able to ease into retirement mode rather than having it all happen on the official date.

    That said, it still was hard to leave a house we loved, and all the familiar places and routines. We were only there five years, but we had made a sort of a life there. I say "sort of" because we never felt comfortable with the extreme conservatism of the place, and really missed being close friends and family. I am so glad we made this move. Time will tell whether we continue to feel that it was the right decision.

    Jude

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    1. You will be just fine. You moved based on past experiences and ties to an area. That is quite different from moving to someplace completely unfamiliar to you because you like the climate or think it would be different and exciting.

      Even so, moving is always stressful and will take time to establish new routines. Take a deep breath!

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  13. Bob- Darn it I just wrote a fairly long post and when I hit "preview" it was deleted!
    Tried a short sentence and tried preview again- it was deleted again! not going to preview this one.

    Not going to repost.
    Just wanted to let you know the preview button does not work. Or it did not for me anyway.
    I am just going to have to learn to write my posts in notepad and copy them.

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    1. The preview function is another of the problems with Google Blogger that they are aware of and remain blissfully unmotivated to fix.

      Note to everyone: do not use Preview before you post your comment. It will disappear. My suggestion is to read what you typed carefully and then post it. If I see some major problems or something beyond a minor typo I will fix the problems.

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  14. Boy do I wish I had seen this article three years ago! I lived 1,600 + miles from where I am right now. My siblings almost begged me to move back. I thought I had researched and thought about it methodically. Was I wrong! I rented a house owned by a sibling. When I got here it was really more than I could handle. Yes, one thing I didn't think about was how important I loved where I moved from and how much I would miss it and all the familiar people and places. From stores to churches etc. and I hardly know anyone in three years! Folks here are just not the neighborly type like I was used to! And, family members live their own lives and to be quite honest, I feel like I was put into a "front loader" and dumped into the area lol. But it's true so if anyone is contemplating a move just give a lot of thought about what your new daily routine would be like and how important your routine where you live now is to you and all those familiar faces you'll be leaving behind if you do move. Just simple things like finding a plumber you trust, a handy man etc. is quite a frustrating challenge that you probably don't have now. The medical facilities here are very good but just think about going through the process of finding a doctor you are comfortable with. A visit to the area for a few days helps, but won't give you a good "feel" for the area and the old saying "don't judge a book by the cover" is something to think about. On the flip side, many people like the challenge of moving into a new area. I found out the hard way that I'm not one of them. So don't want to be very negative but I just want to point out some more intangibles to think carefully about.

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    1. Unfortunately, your experience is not unusual. Moving for a reason or two, but forgetting about the hundreds of things that will change, can cause unhappy endings, like yours.

      As parents or relatives we tend to forget that our grown kids or family have full lives. Trying to fit us in may not be easy. And, people change over time. The smiling faces and welcoming hugs you receive during an occasional visit may be absent when you are around all the time.

      If at all possible, "trial" live in your new location for at least a few months, especially in a climate you may not be familiar with. Renting before a permanent commitment is well worth the extra expense.

      Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale, Arimas.

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  15. I bought my current house because it was in a central location for all of the counties I have to travel for work. It is an hour, to hour and a half away from three of my grown children. I like my house. I would literally pay double for a house just like this in the town/small city where my some of my children live. Or, I could move 2,000 miles away and live near my only daughter. Since it is much more expensive there, and cold, both factors that I hate, I doubt I move there. Although, I admit, the pull of being near her is powerful. To be real, I really do not want to move. I like going to visit my kids, who live close to me, for a little bit on a weekend. Then, I come back to my little 912 sq. ft. home. I am not sure it will be really safe for me to stay here, alone, after I retire. However, is anywhere really "safe"??? I have debated moving 20 miles close to them, so that I an only 34-40 miles away. So, I guess that is different from all of y'all who want to move far away, because I would actually be moving closer to my doctors, I go to the stores up there all the time, and I already know the area very well. I guess there will come a time where I cannot drive and I would need to live closer, but I am not there yet. The question is, do I wish to go ahead and move up there and be prepared for that time?

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    1. Our last move 2+ years ago was only 25 miles but it put us within just a few minutes of our grandkids. That has turned out to be a great decision for all of us. My other daughter lives 40 minutes away but is here a lot so that isn't a problem at all.

      I'd say if you are happy where you are, like your home and routine, don't move just yet. Being within 90 minutes of three of your grown children is not very far.

      But, be thinking ahead about your ability to take care of yourself and be closer to family as age begins to take its toll. Safety isn't guaranteed anywhere, but there are steps we all can take to cut our risks. Being nearer to family is one of them.

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  16. True, especially since the kids come down here, maybe once a year. It is easier on everyone if I go up there, and go visit at their three different residences. I am really contemplating, eventually, moving the 20 miles closer in a town that is 20 miles away from one, 34 miles away from another, and 40 miles away from yet another grown kid. Down here, 20 miles equals about 20 minutes, since we are rural. This small town has a hospital, with an excellent medvac helicopter, two grocery stores, low crime rate, and I have lots of friends there. IT is a little bit more expensive than where I currently live, but still much cheaper than the college town where my kids live (Tuscaloosa)...

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    1. Rural hospitals are under a lot of pressure due to all the uncertainty of our health care situation. Some rural parts of America have been left with no convenient hospital facility at all. If yours ever closes down your decision will be made for you.

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