Meeting the Challenge of Leisure - The right housing

Selecting retirement housing is like selecting a spouse; there are many possibilities, but few that are right.

Ideally, the right housing should take care of you rather than requiring you to take care of it. It should give you shelter, security, and privacy; allow you freedom; and keep you near friends, relatives, and a grocer who delivers.

To Move or Not to Move

What is the right housing for you—the one that you are in or some other place? The answer to this question depends upon the state of your pocketbook and the state of your health.

Advantages of Moving

If you are retired, you might find that you cannot keep up expenses on the old house. You might find that your larger, older house does not suit the reduced size of your family or your need for work or recreation. You could probably save money by living in a smaller place that requires less upkeep. You could also arrange to move nearer children and grandchildren, or into an area where you could find new opportunities for work and recreational activities.

Advantages of Staying Put

But by staying in your home you would remain in familiar surroundings and near old friends. You could maintain your comfortable routine and remain independent as long as possible. If you have unused space, you could move into the first floor and shut off the second floor to save on heat and maintenance. Or you could convert part of the house into apartments.

Where to Live?

Many older people fulfill long standing ambitions by moving to warmer climates upon retirement. The decision about undertaking such a move should be based on consideration of financial, cultural, and other issues.

Moving to a warmer climate makes sense for many reasons. Many elderly people feel threatened or restricted by cold, snow, sleet, and high winds of winter. Many feel that warmer temperatures will make it possible to take part in more activities for more hours of the day, year round. Some people move to live closer to friends or relatives who have already relocated.

Those considering such a move should examine some basic issues. A key consideration is cost of living, particularly important when incomes have been reduced by retirement. Besides consideration of climate and costs, a decision should be based on the availability of activities and attractions. Within a single state, the cultural climate can vary widely between cities. People considering a post-retirement move can make more informed decisions by first vacationing in areas to which they might eventually relocate.

Based on previous studies and the latest statistical information, the ten best states to retire to, in order, are:

1. South Carolina. Low cost of living even in urban areas. Medical and housing costs well below national average. Unbeatable golfing in Myrtle Beach. Cities such as Conway are especially friendly to senior citizens.

2. Alabama. Cost of living one of the lowest in the country. Cost of medical care extremely low, though it may be lacking in some rural areas. Orange Beach and Gulf Shore areas are ideal for beach lovers.

3. Virginia. Cost of living and especially the cost of housing are low except in Richmond. Good amenities for retirees in many smaller towns. Northerners easily adapt to its moderately warm climate.

4. New Mexico. Moderate cost of living. As in most southwestern areas, utility prices are quite low. Fine climate. Las Cruces and other cities with large senior citizen populations offer special programs and facilities.

5. Arkansas. Very low cost of living; medical care good value. Hot Springs particularly amenable to senior citizens. Warm, humid climate.

6. North Carolina. Housing and medical costs low throughout the state. Chapel Hill an excellent location for those seeking a more cultured retirement. Pleasant climate.

7. Florida. Expenses quite high in coastal areas, but cost of living in inland cities like Pensacola is below the national average. Its popularity with seniors means specialized medical care and other services are widely available. Fabled climate.

8. Nevada. Cost of living moderate, but utilities low. Large numbers of retirees throughout the state, especially in the bustling Las Vegas and Reno areas. Enjoyable climate with wintertime temperatures occasionally in the 30s.

9. Arizona. Housing and medical costs are moderately high, but overall cost of living is very reasonable. Averages the highest summertime temperatures in the 48 contiguous states.

10. Utah. Low energy costs, moderate cost of living. Still plenty of open space for those desiring quiet and solitude. Warm summers with the possibility of extremely cold winters.

Psychological Trauma

Moving 100 or 1,000 or 2,000 miles to live in a warmer climate obviously involves some pain of separation and loss. The psychological trauma occasioned by a departure from old friends and familiar surroundings has caused major problems for some older persons. For that reason, the psychological challenge should be given deep consideration before any move is made.

How to alleviate the trauma of leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar? Some persons spend a year in the new locale, return home, and then make up their minds to move or not to move. Others, including those who cannot afford such trial living, at least visit the target region to “get a feel” for it and its way of life. Whatever your situation, the wisdom of considering at least five factors cannot be disputed:

  1. • In the new home under the sun, will you be able to entertain family, including children and grandchildren, and in that way to minimize the pain of separation?
  2. • Are friends or relatives already located in the new area—and can you live near them (not with them, if possible)?
  3. • Will you be able to swing into enough new activities to eliminate any possibility that you might feel useless, wasted, or frustrated?
  4. • Can you maintain your old, or a decent, standard of living once you have moved?
  5. • Can you stand the first 9 to 12 months in the new home without climbing the walls? Studies have shown that those who can last out a year or more will very likely adjust and continue to enjoy life.

Requirements of Retirement Housing

Whatever you plan to do, your retirement housing should be located near or be easily accessible to shops and recreation centers by public transportation. To make living arrangements more pleasant, individual housing units should contain at least 400 square feet, and there should be two or more rooms.

The new dwelling unit should be equal to or better than the housing you have been used to in the past. It should be suitable for comfortable living in both health and sickness—easily adaptable to convalescent needs with either two bedrooms or a bedroom and sleeping alcove.

In addition, retirement housing should incorporate the following:

  1. • All rooms on one floor, and that floor reached by few, if any, steps
  2. • No thresholds or tripping hazards
  3. • Non slip surfaces in hallways, bedrooms, and kitchens
  4. • Handrails by all steps and inclines
  5. • Adequate illumination in halls, near steps, and in other potentially hazardous areas
  6. • Fully automatic central heating
  7. • Doors and halls wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair

Public Housing

If you decide to move and to rent instead of buying, consider public housing projects. These projects are available to single men and women 62 or older, as well as to families whose head is 62 or older or has a spouse at least 62. Local housing authorities build, purchase, or lease the units and set entrance requirements and maximum income limits. Rents are comparatively low.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development also makes loans for nonprofit (and profit) sponsors that will build housing for senior citizens with moderate or higher incomes.

Retirement Hotels and Communities

You might also consider retirement hotels, which are especially numerous in Florida, California, and Texas. These hotels are usually refurbished former resorts that provide room and board at a fixed monthly rent.

Retirement communities offer housing of various types, usually apartments, cooperatives, and individual units. Costs at such facilities vary widely depending on location amenities, availability, and demand.

Would you like retirement community living? It's usually the life for people who like people and who enjoy being active. For those who don't, it can be a bit tiring. Some people do not like the closeness and activity found in a retirement community and prefer living in a less social environment.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities allow seniors who need medical attention to live in an environment that offers more independence and privacy than traditional nursing homes. They are the fastest growing type of senior housing in the United States. Typical facilities offer 24-hour supervision, assistance with medication, meals, and private or semi-private rooms. These facilities are generally not well-suited for seniors who require 24-hour skilled nursing care. The AARP has reported that the average monthly fees for assisted living facilities are approximately $2,000.

Cooperatives and Condominiums

In addition to lifetime care facilities, many church, fraternal, and union groups offer other types of housing. In the case of church-sponsored housing, residence usually is not restricted to members of the sponsoring faith.

Some of these units are operated as cooperatives; others as condominiums . The major difference in the two is that condominium owners have titles to their units, while cooperative residents are stockholders in the cooperative association with occupancy rights to specific units. Condominium owners pay their own taxes; cooperative residents pay taxes in their monthly charges.

Mobile Homes

You might also want to consider a mobile home. A suitable one must be at least 10 feet wide and 50 feet long.

What is it like to live in a mobile-home park? Certainly, there is a closeness in these parks that you would not have in a normal neighborhood. Typically, the mobile home is placed on a lot 25 to 30 feet wide and 75 feet deep. This means that you could have 12 families within a radius of 100 feet.

Residents visit back and forth and hold frequent picnics, barbecues, and other social activities. This would not be the way of life for. someone who did not enjoy group activities.

Be Realistic

To find out what type of housing is best for you, look around the area to see where you want to live. Each community is different, shaped by the people who live there. Talk to the residents and do some serious thinking before you move, not forgetting to carefully consider your financial position in regard to the new locale. Try to be realistic; don't expect to find the perfect climate for health and happiness. The nearest thing to it would be a place that encourages outdoor life, is neither too hot nor too cold, has a relative humidity of around 55 percent, and enough variety in weather, with frequent but moderate weather changes, to be interesting and not too monotonous.

If you have any doubts about the location as far as health is concerned, check with your physician.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: