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relocation for retirement and aging

Image by Erda Estremera on Unsplash.

Moving decisions change as people move to new life situations. It’s less about age than about the changes you go through. At some point you can afford to stop working. Or you may find a way to work remotely so you can live anywhere. Or you want to keep working so you move for your career.

I’ve written a self-help book on the psychology of relocation

After working with clients who moved as a career change, I’ve come to some conclusions.

When it comes to aging, this question has 3 components.

Where can I live without a car?
Do I want to be near the family?
Should I try to live with people my own age?

Where can I live without a car?

Now I’m not a typical American. I’ve always felt the world would be a better place if we replaced cars with public transportation. I learned to drive in San Francisco when I was 21. The guy who administered the test kept gritting his teeth. When he tallied up the numbers, he sighed: “Oh no. You passed by one point. The law says I gotta give you a license. Be careful, ok?”

I drove for many, many years and put many miles on my cars. I always got the “good driver discount,” probably because other drivers tended to stay out of the way. Despite a lack of accidents (and only a handful of speeding tickets), I felt better when someone else was behind the wheel.

One day I decided I could move to a place where I’d never have to drive again. Now I live in Philadelphia, where people of all ages don’t drive. Some don’t even get a license. I’m hearing that teenage boys no longer see a driver’s license as a badge of honor.

It helps that I love Philadelphia and planned to move here for years.

It IS true that many people have to stop driving at some point as they pass their 70th birthday. Some stop earlier; some keep driving into their nineties.

But needing a car has a lot of other baggage, especially if you’re single.

When you live in a place where you *have* to drive to get anywhere, at some point you’ll be at the mercy of other people. Something as simple as a sprained ankle or a fractured shoulder can keep you from getting behind the wheel. An eye exam can temporarily blind you. At some point, your car may have to go live in the shop for a few weeks.

Even if you car is gone for a half day, how do you drop off the car and pick it up? Do you walk home from the mechanic’s shop or hang out? How do you things done during the day?

If you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s harder to get the basics without driving. I lived in a small town and I’ve been there.

Should I try to live around people my own age?

Some people like to be around people their own age. Frankly, I don’t understand this concept.

Some people love it. They saw the series Golden Girls and think it’s cool.

My view is different. I want to spend time with people based on shared values and interests. If we have coffee together, what are we going to talk about?

Someone told me about an improv class for “people over 45.”

My response was, “What kind of improv do they do? Scenework? Games?”

I happen to love scenework. I love improv where the characters share a dialogue. I’m not crazy about games. So I don’t care if my fellow players happen to be 35 or 85.

Here’s what I said (more or less) in my book, When I Get Old I Plan To Be A Bitch:

When you were in high school, did you choose your friends by age?  If you liked sports, you didn’t hang out with kids who studied classical music and thought the Dallas Cowboys were a country music band.

So. just because we share an age, we may have nothing in common with each other.

There are 3 ways to avoid loneliness.

…Find things you love to do, whether you do them alone or with others.
…Take classes and join groups where you do something hard together. A tough spinning class can be a bond.
…Realize that some places are inhospitable to single people (or certain categories of married people). No matter what you do, you’ll be miserable. there.

Joining an Over-55 Community?

I can’t imagine moving to an over-55 community as a single person. It’s hard enough with a spouse. If you make a mistake or just change your mind, it’ll be harder to sell the property because (a) you can only sell to over-55s and (b) some members will be snowbirds so you can’t sell in the hot summer season.If you’re considering this option, go to YouTube and look up videos on “over-55 communities.” Start with this one.

Should I move to be near the family?

On the one hand, you may have a delightful, supportive family who will be there for you. They don’t mind doing all the giving; they feel privileged to help you out.  If you know you’ll avoid mutual resentment, go for it.

On the other hand, I don’t recommend moving to be near the family so you can see the grandchildren more often. Kids grow up fast. You move when they’re five.  When they’re twelve, they play on sports teams and join the drama club.  Their parents barely see them. You’d better have other stuff going on.

I’m not an expert on families, so talk to people who are experts before you make the move. In my experience, moving to be near family is grossly overrated.

Bottom Line: Single people of any age face unique challenges when they think of moving.

When your relocation decision isn’t part of your career decision, you face different options.

When you’re one half of a couple you can share challenges. You won’t be stranded without a car (assuming you have a reasonably functional family). You’ll find more communities where you can feel at home. You’ll get regular visits from family members.

As I’ve said in my book on moving, don’t look for friendship or connections when you move. Look for opportunities to lead a fulfilled life. Look for a place that lets you do things you’d enjoy whether or not you make a new friend.

Finally, remember that some places won’t be hospitable to you. You can’t change them. You’ll have trouble making friends. And you may end up spending quite a bit of money to escape.