As a downsizing coach, I have the privilege of walking alongside individuals, couples, and families throughout the relocation process. I often ‘geek out’ reading the hundreds of studies and articles dedicated to the topic of late-life moves and what makes them successful or stressful. And as a veteran real estate broker, I frequently witness both the joy and heartache that comes with letting go of a long-time family home. In today’s article, I am going to share a few the things I have learned along the way as it relates to post-retirement relocation.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that at least 1 in 4 home sellers is over the age of 65. This number is projected to increase in the coming years because, let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. Each day, after decades of living in the same home, retirees begin to sort through generations of personal belongings, make decisions about what to take and what to leave behind, and pack up and move to new residences better suited for their current phase of life.
Why do certain people after having lived in the same home for many years — even decades — make such a seemingly drastic change? Here are some empirically-based answers to that exact question.
Research shows that late-life moves can be categorized into three types:
Here’s what we know about each of the three types:
1) Amenity-based moves
Active adult retirees and baby boomers with financial means have plenty of housing options available. From luxury 55+ apartment complexes and maintenance free communities to resort properties, amenity-seeking seniors are often looking to upgrade their current homes. This might mean buying new or building their custom dream home. It may also involve moving to a gated community or condo complex with intent to ‘lock it and leave it’ when traveling. Some may even choose multiple homes in other states, moving from one location to another from season to season.
Amenity-based movers are active, fun- and relationship-seeking, and looking ahead.
2) Anticipatory moves
Those age 62 and older have more options than ever before in history when it comes to purpose-built accommodations. Apartment and cottage-style communities are designed to help senior adults remain active, independent, and autonomous into their later years. Providing extra support with things like housekeeping, prepared meals, and transportation, they also boast calendars offering both on- and off-site entertainment, fitness classes, and education programs. Moving to these communities means planning ahead so support is available if or when they may need it.
Studies show that people choosing to relocate to independent retirement communities, while still relatively healthy, actually have fewer health challenges and enjoy a higher quality of life than those of similar age who remain in private residential neighborhoods. This may be the result of being in an environment where residents have access to healthy meals, engage in regular social interaction, are encouraged to participate in physical fitness programs, and experience peace-of-mind from knowing they aren’t alone should they become ill or fall.
3) Needs-based moves
Unlike the two other types of moves, needs-based moves are usually involuntary. In other words, the person was told they ‘had to move’ or they perceived they had little choice in the matter. Relocations of this type are often precipitated by a fall or result from functional challenges associated with chronic illness or cognitive decline. When moving out of necessity, housing options become more limited.
Needs-based moves are often made directly from the hospital to a longterm care facility or assisted living. The hardest kind of move one can make, these are usually the result of an ‘I’m not ready yet’ mentality or lack of financial means to otherwise have proactively relocated. Involuntary moves have been shown in numerous studies to correlate with higher levels of depression and decreased quality of life and well-being.
It’s about choice
Evidence (both empirical and anecdotal) shows that advance planning and preparations are critical for ensuring your residence meets your needs as you age. So, rather than simply a goal to ‘age-in-place,’ why not make the goal to age in the “right” place.
In fact, what it boils down to is control.
It’s who is in control of the decision, whether to move or stay put, that makes all the difference. When you make the decision for yourself, either in advance or in the moment, you control your own destiny. If left for others to decide on your behalf, you may not like the outcome.