If you spend any amount of time hanging out with pre-retirees (and why wouldn’t you – they’re such an interesting group), the conversation will inevitably come around to a discussion about the best places to retire. That topic will come up right after they’ve finished grousing about their knee replacement doctor and comparing notes on favorite tattoo artists.
Once upon a time, choosing a place to retire to was a simple decision to make. You either stayed put, content to age in familiar surroundings, or, if you where from the east coast, you headed south to Florida. If you were the adventurous sort, you might have switched coasts and moved to California. But it was the rare bird indeed who chose to spend his golden years in South Dakota, for example. It just wasn’t thought of, even if you could actually locate it on a map on your first try.
And yet, BankRate.com’s annual compilation of best places to retire: reveals that, according to their specific criteria, South Dakota should indeed be a contender, garnering the number one slot in combined scoring of cost of living, crime rate, health care, taxes, weather and personal well-being. Most of us would not have seen that coming.
If you’re a New Jersey resident, like I am, you might be a bit distressed to find the Garden State sitting in the number 37 spot on BankRate’s list. Before you fall into too much despair, I can suggest that watching this little video might make you feel a little better about your home state. But I ‘m not sure that any of it totally makes up for New Jersey’s lackluster grades in taxation rates (2nd only to our neighbor New York as worst in the country) or its over-achievement in cost-of-living (in the top five nationwide).
Of course, we all know it’s foolish to think that one can make a decision about moving to a new locale based entirely upon rankings done by strangers. So let’s go back and eavesdrop a little more on that group of pre-retirees talking about retirement havens. As they talk about what they’re looking for in the perfect place to relocate, they’re sure to be talking about things like access to excellent public transportation, opportunities for civic, social and educational engagement close to home, health care providers who are attuned to the needs of seniors, and a hospitable climate.
But they may also be discussing their desire to live a sustainable lifestyle in a green community. Or they may want to explore a commonly-held philosophy or religious viewpoint with their future neighbors. Perhaps they’re considering returning to some form of communal lifestyle or shared housing, either out of a desire for companionship or because of economic need.
Intentional communities, co-housing, naturally-occurring retirement communities (NORCS) – all of these terms that sounds rather exotic and hard to explain now will become much more common as the Boomers look at new ways to age in shared circumstances. And this rejection of living styles that promote the loss of social capital that was described in Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone will eventually lead to a renaissance of the community as a caring village.
As the Boomers age, the choices they make concerning their domestic arrangements and placement will likely expand society’s current notions about retirement living. It won’t be so much about settling down in your comfy chair and watching the world go by as it will be about continuing activism, meaningful social discourse and interaction with diverse segments of the larger community. And these types of changes will be so prevalent that it won’t much matter whether you age in New Jersey or South Dakota. You’ll see evidence of this societal shift wherever you roam.
Blog By Holly Deni