• Monday, August 05th, 2013

I’m all settled in to my new home in an over-55 community in Delray Beach. I was unaware when I bought the unit that many of the unit owners are from New England, particularly Boston, Connecticut and Rhode Island, rather than New York or New Jersey. Probably this is because many people when they move to Florida, are following friends or family who have already blazed the trail. While I moved to Florida alone in 1994 knowing no one, most people, I have discovered, are not trail blazers. They want the comfort of having people they know around them. So, it’s been a pleasure to connect with people who know the places in Boston where I grew up, and have shared experiences.

Retirement Relocation¬†is challenging. There are so many factors to consider and many attractive options. Probably the best place to begin is with yourself and what is important to you. When I moved to Florida, I had already done a fair amount of homework. I didn’t just hop in a car and drive down. I had visited many parts of Florida over a space of nine years. I had experienced enough to know that I wanted to be guaranteed warm weather, so that meant nothing north of Vero Beach. I need to be near the water so that eliminated inland communities like The Villages near Orlando. I didn’t want to be in an area dominated by snowbirds who evacuate most of the year. It can get pretty lonely in some areas of Florida in the summertime! In fact, what I wanted was a community with a mix of all ages, proximity to universities and numerous cultural resources, and a promising area in which to develop a new business since I was still in my 50’s and wanted to work, for income, but also as a way of meeting people. I didn’t want a country club community because I didn’t want to pay for amenities I didn’t have time to use, because I didn’t believe in gated communities which isolate you from the rest of the world, and because those communities tend to be dominated by couples, and I was a single person. Even after all that introspection and checking out different areas, I wasn’t sure I would be happy with my decision, so I didn’t jump off the deep end without a life preserver. I rented out my home in Connecticut for three years, and rented in Boca Raton, while I started up a new business. When I finally bought a home in 1998, I was ready to make the move “permanent”. I lived in that new home for 15 years before deciding to move again.

In moving to Boca Raton, I got everything I wanted and needed. But when the time came to downsize, Boca did not have what I wanted in a small villa. In moving to Delray, I am only 10 minutes from my old haunts, my water aerobics class, my dentist, friends, etc. Now I’m closer to my church, other friends, a great library, and the liveliness of downtown Delray, which many people feel is a “happening” place. Yet, I have the peace of this small community and I’m on a lovely lake. As I write this, I look out my window at the ducks, birds, etc. that make this lake THEIR home. I believe I am becoming an expert on “duck behavior”! And my new home is the perfect size for me. After divesting myself of half my posessions, everything I kept fits perfectly. I kept only what I loved.

However, what this experience has shown me is that decisions are not for forever in this life we live. I’ve retired three times and each time have gone back to work. What this latest move has shown me, is that no decision is “forever”. We move along a continuum, making adjustments as we age. Many years ago I told my son when he was in high school and trying to decide on college that the most important skill we need to have in this life is the ability to deal with change. Since we don’t have crystal balls, all we can do is develop a plan for the forseeable future, and do what seems the right thing to do next. After all, even major corporations only have five year plans and adjust them to meet changing circumstances! The gerontologists tell us that we’re all going to live longer than we had expected. That means we’ll have even more opportunities to adjust to change.

A recent article discussed how now that more people will be able to sell their homes, the developers and builders are ready to build a new generation of housing aimed at seniors and aging baby boomers, active adult communities.¬† But these will not be the huge retirement golf course developments of yesteryear, but smaller age-restricted suburban subdivisions. John Sheleimer, a housing researcher from Northern California was quoted as saying “The days of the mega master-planned community with four clubhouses and 27 golf courses are dead”. Even here in Florida, golf capital of the U.S., many golf courses are dying for lack of players. While aging buyers may not want golf courses, they do want community amenities, such as walking trails, fitness centers, swimming pools and smaller clubhouses and proximity to restaurants, libraries, universities, cultural events.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what I have in my new location, even though this community was built 30 years ago. It is not large, only 300 units, has a clubhouse with ping pong, card rooms, exercise equipment, a beautiful, large pool, shuffleboard courts (shuffleboard is coming back big time!)and regularly scheduled dinners and entertainments. All the other amenities that I desired when I first moved to Florida are still right there. So I’m content.

I read that one of the trends in retirement living is to sell the old homestead and buy in a retirement community nearby. Particularly if there is the desire to stay near family. Unfortunately, the younger family members don’t always stay put, so that gets us back to “what do you really want for yourself?” Some people have a hard time figuring that out. That’s where a retirement coach comes in.

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