Is there a magic formula to know when is the best time to leave the old homeplace?
Stay Put, Relocate, Downsize?
by Norma Jackson Goldman
This issue dedicated to marriage and family provides a wonderful opportunity for singles, couples, and families to give thought to a subject often relegated to the bottom of “to do” lists. Should retirees stay put? Relocate? Downsize? The issue is complicated because so many factors enter into decisions about living arrangements in retirement. If ever there were a time to be unemotional and objective, this is it. While we can’t explore each option in great detail, we can raise important, thought provoking questions.
When Is the Right Time?
There is no magic formula or right time for adults to begin investigating housing options for their golden years, but all could agree that waiting until sickness or debilitating illness occurs is far too late. As adults transition to senior years, most prefer to remain completely independent, in control of their living arrangements so they do not become the responsibility of adult children or other family members. This reality makes it imperative to investigate options and do some thoughtful planning before the need for care arises.
Stay Put, Relocate, Downsize?
The desire for independent living often spurs seniors to downsize considerably to eliminate or reduce upkeep to a manageable level, or to relocate closer to adult children or other family members who can assist as needed—or both. Think through a potential move to be closer to family carefully. This has been a source of disappointment for many who find their children fully occupied with their own homes, work, and family, which is quite natural. Older seniors often find it hard to make friends in a new area and regret the move.
Realistically, the ability to maintain a large home and yard becomes increasingly challenging as people age. Staying put requires a hard look at finances. Is there enough money to live on in addition to home upkeep? Will the financial picture change when one spouse dies? Are both partners in good health? Whether the decision is to relocate or downsize, it should be accomplished while seniors are healthy and can manage the stress of a major move.
Why Would I Need Assisted Living or Long-Term Care?
Consider the conditions that almost certainly lead to long-term care. If you find yourself single, over 60, with no close relatives nearby, today is a good time to start! Having sole responsibility for your own healthcare decisions requires investigating options and planning well in advance of need. The same is true for couples where either spouse has current ongoing health issues (heart, lung, kidney, diabetes, family history of dementia, etc.). And none of us know when or if an illness will suddenly change our health picture.
These are tough realities, and many emotional considerations cloud the issue. “I’m not ready,” “I don’t want to live with a lot of old people,” “I love my home and my own things,” or “I’m in such good health now, I don’t even want to consider long-term care” may be thoughts running through your mind just now. There are many positives, however, to assisted living or senior residential communities. Many find they are happy to be free of lawn care, home maintenance, and even daily meal preparation.
Cost and quality of care are prime considerations. For example, the average cost of long-term care in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas ranges from $6-7,000/month for a semi-private room, and the quality of care varies widely. In Alabama and Mississippi costs are slightly less. These costs are far outside the budgets of average households. Many adults wisely begin their planning with long-term care insurance and especially those plans that include a built-in inflation factor. The earlier this type of insurance is purchased, the lower the cost.
Whatever the decision—relocate, stay put, downsize—the time to plan is now.
About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma J. Goldman enjoys a successful freelance career in her retirement. The award-winning writer lives near Nashville, TN. Learn more about retirement options at www.boardofretirement.com.