South Carolina

Where Is “Home”? Figuring It Out In Your 60s

Several years ago, when I was in my late 50’s and my husband was in his early 60’s, we stopped working full time in our business. With a management team in place, we were able to spend half of the year in St. Petersburg, Florida (where our company is located) and half in St. George, Maine. But we talked often about our future retirement years. Where would we call home? Did we want to stay in Florida or Maine… or move somewhere else?

Not everyone, of course, has an option. Health issues, financial constraints or family obligations might make this a moot point. But for those of us with some freedom to choose, the decision can be fun … and difficult.

A recent article in USA Today reported that retirement moves, which dropped sharply during the recession, are making a comeback. Florida is gaining 55,000 retirees each year, Arizona has seen an 18% increase and South Carolina 6%. North Carolina is a choice for many “half-backs” who don’t want to stay in Florida, but don’t want to return to the North either.

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I’m not sure what percentage of retirees actually make a move to another city, but one survey seems to indicate that if people decide to move, it is usually going to be before age 65.

… 73 percent of people between 18 and 29 would consider a move when it’s time to stop working. That rate drops to 62 percent for people ages 30 to 49, then to 50 percent for ages 50 to 64. Among survey takers age 65 and older, only about 1 in 5 said they would consider moving.

I’ve talked to many people in their 50’s and 60’s, and decisions about moving generally involve sorting through a lot of information… and often dealing with strong emotions.

Ray and I spent a lot of time on our decision journey. We talked to friends. We discussed the pros and cons of staying in Florida or Maine. We explored other cities. We made a decision, reconsidered, and then decided again. Finally, even before retirement, we chose to move to Asheville, North Carolina. Here’s what we considered:

Closeness to immediate family

Given how irritating it is to travel by plane, we wanted to be able to see children and grandchildren (who don’t all live in the same cities) within a 4 to 5 hour drive … a drive that might also be reasonable for them to make to see us. Having brothers, sisters and other assorted relatives within that drivable range was an important consideration, too.

Availability and quality of healthcare

This was a big deal for us, not because we aren’t healthy, but because we hope to stay that way and want to be prepared if (when) we have issues later in life.

Moderate climate

As I write this (April), it’s still snowing in Maine and it is in the mid-80s in Florida. We love both of those states, but it’s 65 in Asheville. A climate that doesn’t get extremely cold or extremely hot was important to us, especially since we both enjoy playing golf.

Availability of things we like to do

We wanted to live in an interesting city with great restaurants and music that also had a wide variety of outdoor activities, including walking trails, concerts and art shows. Did I mention golf?

Probability of friends visiting us

Since we would be moving away from good, long-time friends in both Florida and Maine, we hoped that our new home would be a place they might like to visit.

A special house

We wanted a home that we would love and one that provided a peaceful setting – preferably with mountain views, song birds at our feeder, occasional bears and deer, a place for our labradoodle to run and quiet star-filled evenings.

Probability of establishing new friendships

We wanted to meet people who were interesting – but also, people who were interested in forming new friendships. A city with other “transplants” seemed ideal.

Getting back to our roots

This wasn’t something we consciously put on our list or talked much about when we were considering our move. However, Ray grew up in a nearby South Carolina town and traveled to the mountains of North Carolina as a boy. And I vacationed with my family in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee many times when I was a young girl living in Cincinnati. The mountains felt good to both of us.

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Everyone over 60 who considers moving to another city will have different criteria and priorities. However, one thing seems clear to me: If you’re going to do it, you should probably do it while you’re young enough to deal with the actual move, while you have the energy to work on establishing new relationships, while you are healthy enough to take the time you need to find good healthcare providers, and while you are mobile enough to learn your way around the area and enjoy what it has to offer.

For me, it’s been a great move. Cool mountain air, a fabulous new home, a quirky city, wonderful music and restaurants, many interesting new friends, lots of visitors and a comfortable drive to visit kids, grandkids and siblings.

Half-backs? I guess that’s us.

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Cathy Green

A Lesson from Aunt Polly

Aunt Polly would have been 100 in February. She almost made it! Instead, according to the preacher at her funeral a couple of weeks ago, she will be celebrating her birthday with her daughter, sisters and husbands (two of them) in heaven. I hope that’s true, because she would definitely enjoy that party like she enjoyed parties throughout her life.

Happy Birthday cake

I met Aunt Polly – my husband’s aunt on his mom’s side and the mother of his three female cousins Martha, Mary Ella and Gigi – when I was introduced into the family in the early 90’s. I was embraced by all of the Parkers at that time, but none more so than Aunt Polly. With a big smile and hug, she let me know that I was welcome to join in the fun of being part of the Parker clan and that she expected visits to her home whenever we were in town. It didn’t hurt that Ray – Raymond to her – seemed to be a favorite. Her face would light up when she saw him and since I was there, I got to experience her warm embrace, her smile and those mischievous twinkling eyes.

Over the years, we visited Aunt Polly from time to time when we were in Gaffney. She always seemed thrilled that we were there and asked us repeatedly as we left to tell her when we were coming back. In recent years, with more reasons to be in South Carolina and after moving to Asheville – only 90 minutes away – we were able to see her more often. We would take her candy – which she loved – and would “sneak” a bottle of wine to her, too. Her girls weren’t thrilled with her having a drink, she told us. She was beginning to get frail as she got into her 90’s and they were afraid she might fall. But that big smile would get even bigger when we opened up a bottle, told her we wouldn’t “tell” on her, and shared a glass during our visit. She loved believing she was getting away with something!

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The stories about Aunt Polly that circulate in the family are legendary – and very funny. She loved to laugh – and was always willing to laugh at herself, too. One of my own stories about her happened several years ago when she had fallen and broken a wrist. We were at a family event and I knew from her daughters that their mom’s arm was in a sling, at the insistence of her doctor. When she walked into the party, I noticed that there was no sling and asked her about it. Looking a little sheepish, she whispered to me that it didn’t match her outfit so she decided to take it off!

I should have expected that response, since Aunt Polly was always a sharp dresser. She cared about her clothes, her hair and her shoes – even wearing high heels as long as she could get away with it!

A little over a year ago, at a Parker cousin’s reunion at our house in Asheville, Aunt Polly played boogie-woogie piano to the delight of everyone. She said that she played piano every day to keep her mind sharp. We all knew that she was in her 90’s, but had no idea exactly how old she really was.  She had decided much earlier in life to keep her age a secret and swore her daughters to secrecy, too. According to them, she even tried to keep the secret from her doctors. Only after her funeral did we actually get the full scoop on her age – even the memorial card at the church listed her birth date, but not the year! She would have been so happy!

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Cathy, Aunt Polly and Ray in 2012

But my fondest memory of Aunt Polly occurred when Ray and I were visiting her at her home and Ray was busy with something – probably opening the wine. I took the opportunity to ask her a question.

Aunt Polly, why are you always so happy?

She smiled that impish smile of hers, put her hand on my arm and gave me an answer that I’ll never forget:

Honey, she said, I’m happy because I choose to be happy!

Thanks, Aunt Polly, for a great life lesson. I’ll miss you!

Cathy Green

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