Your kids have grown and moved away, and you are approaching your retirement years. By now your mailbox is probably full of reminders that the golden years are nigh, such as your AARP card, and multiple advertisements for retirement communities. If your reaction is typical, you probably toss those pamphlets in the trash, thinking you are still too young for a 55+-retirement community.
That may be so — but if you intend to live in such a community someday, it is worth taking some time to plan the transition well beforehand. It may make more sense to move earlier rather than later. Consider the following factors:
- Choice of Community – Look into the retirement community options in your area and get a feel for whether a particular community is a good fit for your needs. You may be able to arrange a short stay in order to meet the current residents and check out the potential properties. Try this with multiple communities, and make a list of the pluses and minuses. Compare the costs and fees versus the benefits, and you will know which community to target in advance.
- Home Values – Early planning allows you to find a retirement community home that meets your needs, and allows you to take advantage of favorable conditions. If you wait until the last minute, you may have trouble selling your current home or be stuck accepting a much lower price. Conversely, you may have to pay more for your retirement community home than you expected. Monitor the housing market several years before you are ready to make the move and it may result in an unexpected windfall.
- Maintenance - Home maintenance can be taxing on any homeowner, much less an aging one. Lawn care and home repairs can take more time than they are worth at this stage of life, and some tasks such as tree trimming or gutter cleaning can be downright dangerous.
Different retirement communities have different levels of maintenance included, as well as restrictions on your own maintenance and modifications, so search for a community that allows you to do the things you care about and does the rest for you. (Who knows, you may actually enjoy mowing the lawn....)
- Medical Care - Heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases are the three leading causes of death in people aged sixty-five and over. While that fact is scary, early diagnosis and regular treatment can make a big difference to your quality of life. When you are choosing a community that suits your specific needs, it is important to find out what medical care is offered. For instance, is there a doctor resident on the premises? If not, how far away is the nearest treatment facility?
- Security – A quiet, gated retirement community with private security provides a safe, crime-free environment and a respite from noisy and disruptive neighbors. Security is usually one of the primary reasons why retirees choose a 55-and-over community.
- Activities – Most retirement communities offer scheduled community activities and/or access to golf courses, tennis courts, pools and other amenities. See how well the facilities are maintained, how often they are used, and if there are associated fees.
Once retirees lose their work connections, it is not uncommon for them to begin to withdraw into their own comfortable circle. With the common activities that a retirement community provides, it is easy to make new friends.
- Moving Hassles – Moving was a breeze when you were young and could fit all your possessions into a friend's pickup truck. At retirement age, the older you get, the tougher it is to relocate.
You may have no interest in a retirement community at all. If you are comfortable where you are, have children and grandchildren nearby, and are in reasonably good health, there is certainly nothing wrong with staying put for as long as you possibly can. However, if you do find a 55-and-older retirement community appealing, start planning for it well in advance. It will make the transition much smoother and save you from making hasty decisions that you may regret.