Picture your retirement—a house in the country, a white picket fence, maybe a spot by the ocean. Now picture life in a city—bustling, fast-moving and the opposite of an idyllic retirement. Or is it?
Not many seniors pick city living as their first choice for retirement. But with everything you need close by, it may turn out to be just the place for you. These are the questions to ask yourself to see if it’s a fit.
Do you need a car?
In suburbia, everything is a car drive away. But why hop in a car when you could just walk down the street?
Once we get old enough, driving becomes no longer an option. Set yourself up for long-term independence with easy access to public transportation and walkable amenities.
Is the neighborhood walkable?
No matter where you choose to live, you want the area to be safe, well-lit and well-maintained. Easy access to sidewalks and walking trails is a big bonus. Look for a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood so that you always have the option to take a walk around.
Are necessities close by?
Take the hassle out of errands by reducing your commute. Your perfect retirement spot should be close to everything you need on a regular basis. That includes quality healthcare, grocery stores, pharmacies, entertainment and retail stores.
Is there a strong community?
The toughest part of moving to a new city is needing to establish new routes. Choose a community that regularly holds social events that interest you. Look for social clubs, community centers, parks, libraries, museums, volunteer opportunities and places of worship. Staying active is a key part of aging well.
Is your new place accessible?
You want your new home to support you as you age. That means both now and in the future. Look for a home that has ample space to maneuver with no steps in the middle of the living room. Keep an eye out for ramps and elevators for easy access. Keep in mind that your mobility may change.
What is the weather like?
Staying on the couch all day is easy—especially in the middle of winter. Your new city should have good enough weather that you can leave your home and enjoy the fresh air. You should be able to enjoy your city with an ample amount of sunshine.
Is it near family?
As we age, it is important to have a good support system. For many of us, it’s our family. If you will want to visit them often, you should either stay close or be near an airport. Keep in mind that if they are too far away, they may not be near when you need them.
Is the cost of living affordable?
Popular cities can get expensive. If you will be on a fixed income, you don’t want to worry about skyrocketing prices. Look for a city with an affordable cost of living. Remember that includes more than just housing prices—look at how much daily living will cost you.
Will you fit in politically?
You don’t want to move somewhere only to discover that you don’t share much in common with your neighbors. Look up the political climate in the area (liberal, conservative, moderate) so that you know what you’re getting in to.
Can you try it out?
Visiting a place for a weekend isn’t enough to know what it’s like to live there. See if you can stay in a house or apartment when you visit. Eat and go shopping like a local to see what it’s really like. Go in different seasons. Make sure there aren’t any deal breakers.
Your retirement is your own—will you decide to stay put or move on? Familiarity is a big draw, but you may be missing out if you don’t consider your other options. If city living wasn’t on your list, now may be the time to consider it.
Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, California, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College.