Moving? Keep in touch

Ben Swankey, of Burnaby, B.C. – who writes and talks on aging issues – told me: “If you ever contemplate moving, think of the lifelong friends you’re leaving behind. Are you prepared to make the effort to make new ones? And, if you’re a couple and one of you dies after you’ve moved, what happens to the survivor?”

Sage advice indeed.

Before deciding to give up the house and the old neighborhood – whether as a result of a tightening of the purse strings or because the once busy family house is now an empty nest – weigh up your options. As Swankey intimates, moving away is not a decision to take lightly. One alternative to moving you might consider is renting out a room or part of your home to a younger person. That provides income as well as human contact. However, if the work and the bills remain too much for you, don’t become a slave to your house. You may even think about moving to a smaller home within the old neighborhood.

Researcher Marion Lynn cites a small life lease apartment building going up in the Leaside area of Toronto called Stay at Home in Leaside (SAHIL). It’s designed so local people can still live close to the friends and stores and services they’re famiar with. (Under life lease your unit is sold when you die or leave at market price to another older person or couple).

It’s important too, says Lynn, to be with people with whom you share a common culture and interests, and she cites a Finnish seniors’ residence and Chinese senior homes.

Here and there, people are choosing to share a house, and in the May 1998 CARPNews Retirement Living and Tourism Guide I described how six people, ranging in age from 51 to 89 (four women, two men) together bought a 19-room Victorian house so they’d never grow old alone. And it’s working.

Mobility and transportation, too, are essential issues in avoiding isolation. Some day you may have to live without a car, and then having a bus nearby will be a big plus. Getting around, of course, is largely a health issue, and you’ll want to consider being close to your doctor, to a hospital, a pharmacy and perhaps to a recreation centre where you can keep in shape.

And don’t neglect mental fitness. Studies show we can keep the mental effects of aging at bay by exercising our brains, whether it’s at bingo, bridge or doing the newspaper crossword puzzle. Another thing: think security. Fear of crime keeps many people cooped up, so settle where you feel safe.

The needs of women should be carefully considered when the time comes to think about your retirement housing needs – after all, it’s they who generally outlive their sposues. Lynn suggests a woman on her own should look carefully at her housing options, buying if possible, and perhaps having a basement apartment for income.