In retirement, as in almost all things, we’re doing things differently than generations previous. Always-sunny, closed-in, air-conditioned, cookie-cutter communities in Florida are no longer the default destination. Like seriously, NO. But what is the plan?

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate conducted a survey to see where and how Boomers plan to live as they get older. Wow, were the results interesting.

Retirement Living Ain’t What it Used to Be!

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed, 39% said they want to live in rural communities, i.e., small towns or farms. A whopping 83% do not plan to live with family members – not with older parents, not with their adult offspring. Of those who plan to move, over two-thirds say they expect to renovate or update their next home to fit their specific wants or needs.

 
 

Hell No, We Won’t Go – An Old Cry with A New Meaning

Said Sherry Chris, President and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, it’s not like it used to be. Boomers don’t plan to downsize and move into an apartment in a retirement community. Those who move and buy homes will be “buying lifestyle.” And, interestingly, many are perfectly fine with the idea of taking out a mortgage for their new home. The old truism of “spend your working years paying off your mortgage, and then live in retirement mortgage-free” has been thrown out the window.

Building a Community of “My People”

I am not thinking of living in a classic retirement community either, and there’s a little push-pull in my thinking. On the one hand, I’m more and more driven as the years go by to connect with other women my age, to build my community of same-age friends – both those who are physically nearby and those who are accessible via the Internet and phone. I do want to surround myself with my generation.

That’s where “my people” are, all living in a parallel universe; it’s where the global memories are shared and where friends with true understanding and compassion are found. So in that sense, yes, I do want to surround myself in an ever growing community of peers who are going to be, well, old – because I will be old.

Moving Beyond Outdated Definitions of Retirement Living

At the same time, I do not want and I will not define myself and my living environment by my age. I want to spend my days among a variety of people at all stages in their lives, in a neighborhood that developed naturally, or at least that was developed as an all-purpose place to live – not a restricted facility for people of just one certain type. And I very much want to continue to choose where and how I’ll live based on my own peculiar preferences in architecture, landscape, weather, and surrounding amenities.

Changes will happen, of course. I will downsize eventually; I may move to another area to be near one of my children. But I will always make my choices based on who I am, not what age I’ve reached.

What About Single Boomer Women?

I believe that this thinking will extend to those Boomer women who don’t fit the mold of “married and facing retirement with a husband,” who in past generations generally had few resources or choices in how they would live as they got older. Now they’re savvier, they have the Internet at their fingertips.

They have access to resources such as Roommates4Boomers, created by a Boomer woman for Boomer women, to make it possible to find other compatible women with the same tastes and needs who want to join forces to share housing and expand their living options.

I hear stories all the time about women who are older, single, and have decided to up their game by combining living expenses with one, two, or a small group of women to buy bigger and better homes than they had when they were younger. Their lives are not contracting; they’re expanding. It is, perhaps, a natural outgrowth of how we thought about life and its possibilities as we entered adulthood in the 60s and 70s: share and share alike, live in community, enjoy life with many friends.

Where do you plan to live when you retire? With your children? Where you are now? In a retirement community? Do you agree that lifestyle is more important than the old model of paying off your mortgage before retirement? Have you considered shared housing as an option as you get older? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Karen VenableKaren Venable is founder of Roommates4Boomers, a service for women over 50 that matches roommates using an algorithm similar to what dating sites use. Several years ago when Karen was going through a divorce, she realized how helpful it would be if there were a service that matched compatible over-50 women. Her research turned up none. She knew a huge void needed to be filled, so launched Roommates4Boomers.

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