Retirement living options refer to the choices you have of where and how to live during your retirement years. When many of us think about retirement, we imagine much of the same old, same old in terms of lifestyle, but without that pesky need to go to work five days a week. You might have a great deal more freedom now and perhaps you’ll spend more time on the road, visiting kids, grand kids or old friends. Or you might take that long postponed trip to Europe or South America. Of course you can dust off that bucket list and start ticking off the to-do items.
But when it comes to that all-important decision on where you live and how you live – why stop at just the obvious when so many different retirement living options are available? Why not at least consider out-of-the-box ideas? It’s a big world out there and you don’t have to live in the same house you’ve lived in for the past decades, even if your kids, grand kids and/or friends are nearby.
In fact, many retirees move to communities where they don’t know anyone, and a large percentage of these people never regret it (although some do). I read a really interesting article about this: 10 Unique Retirement Communities For Baby Boomers. The author talks about a bunch of different places to consider but my favorite from this particular list is the Lifelong Education Village that requires residents to attend at least 450 hours of classes a year. How cool is something like this for retirees that love to learn and want to be around lifelong learners?
Here are some other retirement living options to consider:
Live on a cruise ship. Being an avid cruiser myself, I’ve occasionally run into people (both married and single) that live full time on a cruise ship. Perhaps they take a week or two off to visit relatives but otherwise reside at their selected cabin on the ship. All the comforts of home are available including obscene amounts of great food (with no need to cook or do dishes); lots of recreational activities including shows almost very night; a nice gym and plenty of opportunities to get off the ship and explore; plus the chance to meet a steady stream of new people. It is an expensive way to live but not as unreasonable as you might think. After all, while living on a ship you have no mortgage, no property taxes, no home insurance, no auto fees, no grocery bills, and so forth.
Swap houses. While not usually a full-time living option, house swapping is a great way to experience life in a new place. The idea behind swapping houses is that you can spend a lot less to enjoy all the comforts of home while experiencing a new and different area. These used to be one-to-one swaps but services like HomeExchange.com now allow you to stay at a different member’s home who never stays at yours. Instead they use a guest point system, that allows your host to stay at another members’ home (the power of technology). This opens up many more opportunities for all parties. In addition to HomeExchange, there are over 20 other services to facilitate this process including Love Home Swap, and Home Stay.
House sit. Home owners are sometimes reluctant to leave their house unoccupied while they are gone. They may have pets or security issues like potential theft or vandalism. Perhaps they need someone to take care of things like plants, minor landscaping or maintaining items like swimming pools or boats. Whatever the reason, house sitting can be a big win/win for both parties and give you the opportunity to experience a new area at little or no cost. While typically not a permanent housing option, these arrangements usually last from a few days to a month or so. And yes, there are a few long-term and international options. What better way to try a new state or country before committing, especially if you can work via your computer and phone?
Here is a great summary of house sitting from House Sitting Magazine: “Now recognized as an alternative to a regular short-term vacation, house sitting also provides a great accommodation option for longer term travel and lifestyle living especially in retirement. For some, international house sitting has even become a way of life. Individuals, couples like us, digital nomads, and even families use it as a way to travel, live and work remotely, while providing a valuable service to pet owners so that they can enjoy their own travel adventures free from the guilt of boarding their pets. Keeping the pets happy in their homes is the number one priority for a house sitter, and that provides enormous reassurance for the pet owner trusting their home and pets to a stranger.”
Be a full-time or part time RV’er. This isn’t so unusual since estimates of the number of full-time RV’ers range from 250 to over 400 thousand. That’s a lot of 5th wheel and Class-A rigs, not to mention other varieties like pop-ups and pickup campers. There are also millions of part-time RV’ers, including my sister, who spends about half the year on the road with her husband. Those who adopt this lifestyle really seem to enjoy it and there is a huge network of campgrounds, RV parks and support services to meet your every need. Lifelong friendships have been made at RV happy hours or shared campfires. Some of the downsides are the same as living on a boat, especially cramped quarters – not to mention the need to drive your home from place to place.
Live in an active-adult community. Active-adult communities are those which have two characteristics. First, they are age limited. Most require at least one of the residents to be aged 55-plus, while others require you to be 50, 40 or some other specific age. The second characteristic is where the name “active” comes from. They are usually loaded with facilities and activities like golf, fitness, social centers, swimming pools, craft centers and clubs of many types. The larger communities even have staff whose mission it is to see that the residents have plenty to do.
Active-adult communities are a great option if you want to move to a particular area but have few if any family or friends in that area. While it can be tough to create a new social network (see this article), the active-adult model helps solves this by sponsoring so many activities where you can meet like-minded people. Plus, most other residents in the community came from somewhere else and are equally eager to find their own tribe.
Live on a boat. We have several sets of friends who have lived on boats, both powerboats and sailboats. I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time on sailboats but never for more than a couple of days at a time. Those who have adopted this lifestyle mostly love the adventure and camaraderie but there are some downsides. For one thing, you will be living in very tight quarters meaning you had better dispose of, or store, large amounts of your possessions. Also, this can be an expensive way to live, given the high costs of slip rental, repairs, insurance, fuel for your boat, etc. Remember the old definition of a boat as, “a hole in the water where you pour your money”.
Be an expatriate. Ex-pats are people who choose to move to, and live, in a foreign country, sometimes for a few years and sometimes permanently. Of all the options, this is by far the most out-of-the-box. It requires major research and a big commitment. For example, you will have to deal with immigration officials, plus language and currency issues. There is almost always a big cultural shift, which may be the reason you do this in the first place. Issues like crime and healthcare can prove way more difficult in a foreign country. Plus, you will be far from friends and family and contending with different time zones.
On the upside, ex-pats often enjoy a much higher standard of living than in the U.S. on the same salary. Chances are, you will be in a beautiful area, perhaps on, or very close to the beach. At least at first, every day can be an adventure and you will get the chance to meet a lot of fellow ex-pats who are also adventurers. You will no doubt have a sense of pride in doing something a relatively small percent of the population dares to undertake. For more, here is a good article on the pros and cons of being an ex-pat.
I hope this information stirs your imagination. Some of the ideas are permanent retirement living options while others (boating, RV, house sitting) can be experienced on a short-term basis. But all can broaden your horizons and make retirement a more interesting phase of life.