Some of our friends are lucky enough to live in the same town or within an hour or so of their children and grandchildren after retirement. Getting together is no big deal, and sometimes they get together at least once a week and visit quite spontaneously.
Then, there are others like us, who have grown children a long drive or a plane ride away. Visits have to be scheduled and planned, and even though we’ve traveled far we stay only a few days so we don’t wear out our welcome.
In the past, most families stayed put and got together for weekly family dinners. Barbara’s mother, who grew up in the Midwest, regularly attended multi-generational dinners at her grandmother’s home where the menu was repeated week after week – a big spaghetti casserole and chocolate and coconut layer cakes. Everyone lived nearby and savored the rituals of family camaraderie.
That was then and this is now. Today, we console ourselves with email, texts, telephone calls (without message units that once made long-distance calls costly), Facetime, and Skype – especially when there are grandchildren whose first steps and conversations we want to watch and hear. It’s bonding from afar. However, is it enough after retirement?
As we listen closely to the conversations we’re having with our friends and colleagues, there is talk about whether to move closer to the children and grandchildren, especially once we retire. The idea of being able to baby-sit frequently, attend recitals and sports events, and all without intense planning, resonates.
Yet it begs the question: Do we really want to give up our lives that we finally have time to enjoy more as we near retirement? Do we want to leave our close friends behind with whom we’re bonded? Do our kids really want us so close by? Are they going to stay put if we do move? They could be transferred or take a better job in a different location.
And selfishly, it’s difficult to establish new patterns in older years – make friends, find doctors, hairdressers, a gym, stores, favorite restaurants, and basic daily routines (like walking to a favorite store to grab a newspaper or heading to a favorite grocery store). We’ve come to rely on our routines, that daily hello to our coffee guy, the friends we see each morning when we walk the dog, and our monthly book club get-togethers, and so much more.
Each of us has tested the water during conversations with our children. Margaret’s daughter was surprised when she entertained the possibility of moving halfway across the country to be near her. “Why would you want to be here? It could be fun, but are you sure?” she asked her mother. “To be closer to you and have an adventure,” Margaret responded.
Barbara raised the possibility, too, when talking to her younger daughter. “If I could find a small town that resembled where I live now about an hour or less from you, would you like that?” Her daughter said “yes” but seemed skeptical that her mother would really be able to find such a place and make the move from a town to which she had only moved six years ago.
In the meantime, we consider the logistics. Margaret ponders renting a place for a month to try life on the West Coast near her daughter. Barbara explores different cites closer to her daughter each time she visits, and already has ruled out three for various reasons. We toss the idea back and forth like a ball that never hits the ground, still weighing pros and cons while we’re still healthy, and knowing we have the luxury of time to decide.
If this possibility is on your radar, consider taking these 7 preliminary steps:
1. Write down the pros and cons of staying versus moving, even what you love and don’t like about each place. Save your list and periodically revisit it, which will help you come to a decision.
2. Think about what scares you most about making a move or staying and decide which outweighs the other – leaving friends versus making new friends, finding a temple or church if that matters, a sense of community, physicians, hairdresser, even restaurants and shops.
3. Research the area where your children and grandchildren live, if you’d like living there, or if there’s some place nearby that you prefer. Look at the supermarkets, bookstores, library, restaurants, shops (wine and candy for Margaret and a kids’ store for Barbara for her grandson), a good hospital, and a college or university for cultural programs and lectures – whatever matters most.
4. If you don’t know the area, rent before buying something. Try out the location for a week or even a month to see how it really feels, since that way you haven’t made a serious, expensive commitment.
5. Focus more on possibilities of finding a house or apartment you’d love, and check out its affordability, maintenance, and other concerns.
6. Think about ways to make friends – through a gym, book club, temple or church, and whether you’re willing to be more socially aggressive than you might feel comfortable, since nobody’s waiting for you to arrive!
7. If you go, be sure you are willing to set and follow boundaries with your kids RE: frequency of visits. In fact, you may get so busy that you won’t want them popping in on you or asking you to baby-sit too often.