How do you decide where to live in your 70’s and beyond?
It’s a question I’ve been asking friends recently. How life unfolds is unknown, but we do know that for older people energy wanes, joints stiffen and needs change. Quite apart from the physical changes in ageing there are also life changes. Approaching 70, there is a sense of freedom. This is the first time in our lives many of us are independent, free from work and mortgages and our time is largely our own. This not the reality for some older people and it may not be our reality in years to come but for now, in our seventies, life is rather terrific!
Over cups of tea with my neighbours, after complaints about the tourist traffic and the inadequacies of the local supermarket- the question of housing in our later years is often explored. We swing between- “I’d love a small modern house with a low maintenance garden“or “We’re staying here. This is home. We’ll just add a few improvements.”
As I look around at a random survey of friend and acquaintances there are many different paths. There are so many exciting options. Some are staying put and redesigning their gardens & houses to make them low maintenance. Others have chosen to downsize and move into a “lock up and leave” apartment near public transport in or near a regional city. Yet others have chosen retirement communities for their safety and amenity such as golf courses, pools etc. Many friends have tree-changed or sea changed to get away from city life. A big fling adventure into a life they have always wanted.
Some move to warmer climates and others find ex-pat life overseas their home of choice. Others have decided not to own property. One friend recently sold a home and business. She has invested the money, rents a town house and travels extensively. On my travels I met a Sue, who has an apartment in New York. She rents it out and lives in Vietnam, a country she loves. Net win! Two friends I know have designed and co-own a property as tenants in common. Starting from scratch they designed a house to suit their needs. Two bedrooms and bathrooms equal in size and a large open area for shared living.
I’m facing this decision now as I honour a promise made to myself ten years ago. It was a different life back then. I was newly divorced, recovering from depression and needing a quiet village in the country. I found a beautiful community, one and a half hours from Melbourne. The house reminded me of French cottages I had stayed in and as I looked at the sloping bush block with its mammoth gum trees in central Victoria I saw terraces, olive trees, rose arbours and courtyards. Places to sit and look at the views into the valley. A sculpture garden and a 10 year creative project! I vowed to take stock in my 70th year and see how far my dream had been realised and whether it was how I wanted to live. As this milestone approaches I am 95% certain that I am ready to embrace a different lifestyle.
My family are actively and effectively exploiting my 5% of doubt about this life change decision as they point out the beauty of my current home, garden, village, friends and community. But I’m antsy and having spent a month travelling in big cities I am even more unsettled. When is quiet just too quiet?!
I’m exploring the idea of downsizing to an apartment or town-house in a small regional city called Geelong. It’s about 350,000 people, beachside, an hour or so from Melbourne and with good transport links and a more temperate climate.
My heart and mind are sparring as I try to make my way through this decision. Some days it’s very clear. Other days I’m befuddled and it’s all too hard so I abandon home and head to an art gallery…avoidance at its best.
My career was in change management so I know a lot about transitions. Applying some of the principles, here goes……..
- What do you want? What is the home, garden, place like? Describe it in detail. Create the vision. Move towards it. Don’t justify. Just describe……
- To move on to the new, don’t have to make the old into something BAD. People and circumstances change. The old state may be lovely but it is not enough now. The new state is better suited to who you are now and the wants/ needs you have now.
- In every decision there is a loss. The losses may be minor or major but there will be losses. We put so much energy into minimizing loss. This makes perfect sense when the losses may be financial or the impact on relationships is large. But there’s a difference between managing a risk and the fantasy that there will be no losses in leaving the old to embrace the new.
- Start somewhere. Avoidance and inactivity only fuels frustration. Make a start.
- Do your homework. Financial, social, emotional, physical, even spiritual considerations may come into play- think it through. Take your time. Find your critical friend- the one that can gently but firmly ask the hard questions
- Celebrate ENDINGS expect the murky waters of NEUTRAL ZONE when your feelings oscillate, you feel frozen or panic- Buyer’s Remorse by another name…. Then BEGINNINGS will start to gather momentum and you can embrace the new. (Thanks to William Bridges for his resilient and relevant transition model!)
Over the next weeks and months travel with me on this transition journey to find my home for my 70’s and beyond. We’ll also be talking to other people about their transition choices.
But for now my plan for this week includes
- Create the vision- off to café with my large sketchbook and textas to draw, add boxes and text, make lists and explore
- I’m heading to a few auctions and starting to track the real estate market in my 3 areas of choice for a new home
- Firm up my financial plan- costs of selling and buying property
- Start to prepare this house for sale- paint the front bedroom this weekend!
I’ll let you know progress…any advice welcome……how have you made sense of where to call home in your 70’s and beyond?