My mom retired at the young age of 63 from the State of Alabama. She had been single longer than she was married, so her decision to leave Montgomery, Alabama and move elsewhere was not a surprise. My sister and I tried to persuade her to move closer to us; I was in a Baltimore suburb and Susan was in the Atlanta area. Our small hometown, though familiar, was not offering our mother the peace and relaxation she wanted. She did not have any ties keeping her local, but she didn’t want to move to a city with big city problems, big city traffic and big city prices. She had always enjoyed visiting her sister, so she eventually opted to move 15 minutes from her sister’s home in the mountains of western North Carolina. My mom was familiar with this new town from her annual visits. Before she moved, though, she—and other retirees in similar circumstances– have to consider the following:
- When moving to a completely new area, what was the proximity to a caregiver, even temporarily, if she became sick or injured? For my mom, her nearby sister could help if necessary. My aunt knew the area and was excited to have another family member close by.
- Was there a church my mom could join? As a cradle Catholic, weekly Mass and an active church were important to her. For anyone moving to a new location, investigating spiritual needs is an important detail that should not be ignored or delayed until the move actually happens. Driving 45 minutes to a place of worship may be enough to deter a more mature adult from moving to a new area.
- Was there a good hospital and doctors available? Relocating to a state that one has not retired from can be tricky, especially when medical benefits are involved. Mom worked for the State of Alabama, and she was moving to North Carolina. She had to spend many hours on the phone and in the retiree benefits office in Alabama learning how the move would impact her benefits.
- Was the weather conducive for year-round residence? My mom was never a fan of snow and the thought of moving further north was questionable, but she was excited about relocating to an area with three really nice seasons of the year. The North Carolina mountains sometimes have snow, but the average snow fall was not significant enough to deter her move.
- Finally, was there rental property available? The town, Sylva, NC, was popular with snowbirds and a mostly retiree country club development was perfect for her. Furnished condos in a fairly unpopulated area offered her stability and people her age for at least 8 months of the year. Plus she was not bound by home ownership or the care required when owning your own home.
My mom is happy—although she is a long drive from both her children and grandchildren. We cannot visit often because she is not near an airport that is easily accessible. But as my mom starts her 71st year, this current arrangement is working. As she ages, we all know that we will have to have a course correct if my aunt moves, if my mom becomes sick, or becomes unable to drive. As of now, though, this arrangement is working well.
Barbara Miller is a Continuing Education Specialist with Jenerations Health Education, Inc. She is also a wife, mother of three sons and experienced family caregiver. She writes from her personal experiences with her mother and mother-in-law.