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What is Your Retirement Housing Preference?

Posted Apr 15 2014 8:30am

UPDATE AT ABOUT 10AM PACIFIC TIME: This is the most interesting thread I've read here in a long time. I'm fascinated by all the different choices, reasons and the thoughtfulness you are putting into this. Please keep the comments coming. We all can learn a lot from one another on this topic.

Last week we discussed location choices and the finances of retirement living . It was interesting to read how many who commented left an impression that elders and boomers coming up on retirement soon are all doing fine financially.

Today, let's talk about the type of housing we are interested in for our retirement.

Although I can't prove it, it is my sense that a large number of our parents and grandparents worked hard to pay off the mortgages on the homes where they raised their children and, barring the need for full-time care, stayed there until they died.

Some may have moved to Florida, Arizona or their personal equivalent but there were not a lot of retirement living choices beyond Sun City-type, 55-plus communities. Today there are many more.

In fact, there are so many that I can't possibly cover them all here so let's go with the most common new kind of choices that do not involve the need for caregiving.

NORCs: These are neighborhoods most commonly of condominiums or single family homes that, unplanned, hold a significantly high number of retired people.

Cohousing: Communities that are planned, shared and owned by the residents that may include common facilities like kitchen, dining room, child care, laundry, offices, etc. They are usually multi-generational with common interests, often involving environmentally sustainable living.

Age-Restricted Communities are usually segregated by age: 50-plus, 55-plus, 60-plus are the most common. Sometimes children – grandchildren, for example - may visit for only a limited number of days per year.

Active Adult Communities: These, too, are usually age restricted to 50-plus, etc. of privately owned homes and/or condominiums that also provide recreational facilities such as golf courses, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, etc.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: CCRCs for short are a hybrid idea for life-long living. Residents can move from independent living in apartments or individual homes to assisted living to nursing care as needed.

Shared Housing is a growing phenomenon of two or more unrelated retired people living together in a single family home. Think Golden Girl although there is an uptick recently in elders who own their homes taking in college students or unemployed who can't otherwise afford housing on their own. New matchmaking services that include background checks are helping like-minded people connect.

Common Identity Communities: Quite new are retirement communities with people who share an interest or identity: LGBT elders, musicians, unions members, a specific religious faith, etc.

RV-ers: Speaking of common identity communities, a couple of TGB readers have commented in the past that when they need a respite from travel, there is a specific community of RVers to which they return to live until the next time they head out. (Please do enlighten us further, RV-ers.)

The Village Movement: I've written about how I am working with a group of people in my town to start a Village – a group of people living independently in their homes who band together to provide the services they and one another need help with as they grow older.

These are only some of the possibilities. Personally, had I not been forced out of New York City, I would have stayed in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die (or need full-time care). Maybe I would have attempted to create a Village in my part of Greenwich Village.

As it turned out, I chose a medium-sized condominium community that, unbeknownst to me when I bought, is a NORC. The most planning I did was for affordability (e.g. condo to share big costs rather than a single-family home) and continued ease of living as the normal declines of old age increase in coming years (e.g. no stairs).

If I were doing it now, I suspect I would choose differently but I am not uncomfortable here and I have little patience for regret. I am fine where I am.

Now, what about you? I am curious how others approach retirement living arrangements, and the reasons are probably as varied as individuals themselves.

How did – or will – you choose how to live in your retirement? Does it come easily? How much did you or have you planned? How has it worked out so far?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: No Blue Hair, Please

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