En español | Q: I’ve lived in the same house — and community — since my children were young. Now that my nest is empty, should I think about moving?
A: Once the kids are gone, it’s only natural for women to wonder whether the community they initially chose for its good schools and family-focused activities provides enough opportunities and services for them in their next phase of life. Some decide that they really do want to stay put, and with a few changes, they most certainly can. Others think that it would be exciting to relocate and plant new roots in another place.
If you’re considering the options, the guiding principle is to be practical! Calculate whether you can afford to stay where you are, as well as what kind of home you might like to buy elsewhere. Keep in mind that your earning power will likely decrease after retirement, so it may make sense to downsize to a smaller house or move to an area where the cost of living is low.
Here are a few questions to get you started thinking about where you might want to live in the years ahead:
- Do I want to be near my children and their families?
- Are my longtime friends staying or moving, too?
- Will I enjoy a mild, sunny climate where I rarely have to dig out a winter coat more than the variety of all four seasons? Will I prefer the easy quiet of small-town living or the bustle of a big city?
- Do I intend to hike, bike and cross-country ski as long as I can? Or would life feel empty if I couldn’t easily get to the theater, concerts or art galleries?
Once you’ve zeroed in on the kind of community you think you’d enjoy, try to learn more specifically about the kind of lifestyle you might have. What would happen if you weren’t comfortable driving, or if you needed help keeping up your house or caring for yourself? In the past, you probably didn’t think twice about a short drive to the supermarket, movies or doctor’s office. Now — or in the years to come — you might. You might not even want to drive at all. Consider the following:
- Does the community have regularly scheduled public transportation — free or low-cost? Are sidewalks well lit and maintained?
- Does it have programs and services for older adults — such as home-delivered meals or senior centers? Learn more about services at Eldercare.gov.
You can also get help finding the right place with AARP’s Location Scout
Q: What is the “village” model of community-based support?
A: The "village" model of community-based support is an innovative, grass-roots concept for living that provides a wide range of services and activities so that people 50 and older — single or married — can continue to live in their own homes and neighborhoods as long as they want.
The first village started 10 years ago in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. Since then, the concept has spread to about 50 communities nationwide, with hundreds of others in varying stages of development.
Here’s how it works: Community members incorporate as a nonprofit, and all members pay a fee, which can range from $150 to $500-plus, depending on the services provided. The “village” uses these funds to pay for services that range from housecleaning and home maintenance to meal delivery and transportation. Although some villages hire staff, in most cases volunteers provide the services, which often go well beyond the basics: Want the furniture rearranged in your bedroom? Need an on-call computer geek if your hard drive crashes? Some “villages” also arrange for discounts to local health clubs, restaurants, and cultural and sporting events.
If this sounds appealing, log on to the Village to Village Network for more information.
Q: How can I make my current home as safe and secure as possible as I get older?
A: As you get older, certain features of your home that you never thought about before may become a bit more challenging, such as high shelves and long narrow stairways. To the rescue are professionals known as certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS). CAPS are builders, designers and architects who can help you remake your home to avoid potential problems — or at least give you a better idea of what you should look for if you change your mind and decide to move.
These experts draw on the principles of universal design, which aims to create stylish homes and products that can be used by everyone, young or old, able-bodied or disabled. They can show you how to adapt your home for one-level living with wider hallways and more open space; add step-free entrances; or install adjustable-height cupboards with lazy Susans and easy-to-reach light switches and outlets. These changes don’t have to cost a bundle, either. You can make fairly inexpensive changes, such as levers instead of hard-to-turn doorknobs. Go to AARP's home checklist to find more information about safe and comfortable designs.