One of the really nice things about a satisfying retirement is the freedom that comes from deciding how you live or even where you spend your time. Some of us are happiest staying where we are now, with an occasional trip to add new experiences to our lives.
But, what about those retirees who have decided to really break the mold? A while back the Wall Street Journal had a story about folks who have picked, shall we say, more unusual retirement options. A few other news stories that filtered across my desk make it obvious that a "traditional" choice may not be so obvious. Consider these:
Live on a Ship
For roughly the same monthly cost as a typical full service retirement community, a small but growing number of people are living for several months or more each year on cruise ships.
A recent research study concluded that the services on a typical cruise are comparable to those in a retirement community: dining choices, escorts for dances and dining, help with doling out medicines, and daily housekeeping. Cruise ships have a doctor and nurse on board and on call 24/7, as well as a decently outfitted medical facility without worrying about health insurance or copays. Entertainment, fitness centers, libraries, and satellite TV complete the package.
Between cruises, those who have adopted this lifestyle stay with friends or in a short term apartment rental or hotel. Of course living space is at a premium, but as a trade off you spend your time visiting fascinating location anywhere in the world and have your needs and wants taken care of.
Just a month or two ago I saw an article about folks who live on cruise ships full time. For all the reasons noted above, these people have left any land-based living arrangement behind. Click here for an excellent article on the good, the bad, and the ugly of cruise-ship living
Spend part of the year as a Park Ranger
This retirement lifestyle could be considered a type of snowbird living. Folks spent the summer months living in an RV while serving in volunteer capacities at national or state parks. Usually the rental fee for the camping space is free, or deeply discounted in exchange for the help.
The volunteers may serve as managers of a camping/RV site, teaching interpretative classes, or working in a gift shop. The story I saw told of a couple that spent last summer at Yellowstone, the previous summer at Yosemite, and plan to be at Mt. Ranier this year. During the winter months they pull the RV to a warmer climate or spend time visiting friends. For more information on this option, For more information on this option, click here
Share Housing with others
There are a growing number of such senior developments in the U.S. with more in other countries. I have read predictions that most metropolitan areas will have at least one cohouse development within the next decade. Especially for those who have lost a partner or have no nearby relatives, the sense of family and of sharing one's life with others are major draws.
If this sounds like something you'd like to explore, take a look at CCohousing,org's website.
Live in another country
Moving to a place like Costa Rico, Mexico, Belize, or anywhere else in the world is becoming a reasonable choice for many. Estimates are that over half a million Americans are spending their retirement years outside their home country.
The primary reason is cost. Health care is usually 50-80% less expensive with comparable care. Many doctors in Central or South America, for example, are trained in American schools. Larger cities have modern hospitals and clinics. Housing is usually much less expensive, too. Social Security checks can usually be sent to you, though the rules vary by country.
Another reason folks choose to pull up stakes and start over again is the desire for adventure and a fresh start. Retiring to another country is a major decision that requires serious thought and preparation. It is not something to be done on a whim. Learning a new language and customs while fitting into a new culture can be daunting to some, but amazingly stimulating for others. Interesting? Click here
I've just scratched the surface on this topic. Additional options include some form of extended volunteer work, like the Peace Corp, or building a small apartment on the property of grown children to create a multi-generational situation without sacrificing privacy.
I'd like to know is what do you think? Are any of these ideas (or others I haven't mentioned) logical alternatives to aging in place or a typical retirement community?
It is kind of exciting that we do have options.