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Why the Place You Choose to Live in Retirement Says a Lot About You

By Ilene Marcus January 24, 2024 Lifestyle

Location. Location. Location.

There’s an old saying: “What you see, depends on where you stand.” How often have I traveled the same road, only to notice something new?

Sure that it wasn’t always there, I ask others: “Did you see what appeared on route 7?” The answer always comes back, “I’m surprised you just noticed that; it’s been there forever.” We get complacent in our lives, our errands, our everyday choices. And yet, where we live says so much about us.

We are born into a family who come with a home address. This doesn’t always mean we love the location; it just means it’s a choice. Our home is our place to charge our phones – updated from ‘hang our hats’.

Kenny Chesney’s hit song “American Kids” sums it up well. It says, “Momma and Daddy put their roots right here because this is where the car broke down.”

All hometown locations come with the good, the bad, the stereotypes. The truth is that with the world wide web, everything is closer and possible.

Choices abound, and most individuals can choose where to go to college, whether to join the military, work, follow a specific lifestyle or to make Aliyah. This is a Hebrew phrase used during the diaspora, loosely interpreted as pilgrimage to a new homeland.

Our story told through the places we live, work and make our homes, starts with no choice and then captures our soul, our essence, our gestalt. Get your story right.

Define Where You Live

Location definitions are more standard than you think. Look at your life through the geographic lens:

  • Suburbia: Outlying to a major city or other region, signified by big box stores, strip malls, commuter rail lines and everyone owning a car.
  • City: Downtown area – a block, a mile or 12 miles as in NYC – stores and residences co-existing, ethnic influences and a mass transit system.
  • Country: Cows, farms, very few traffic lights, limited shopping options and bring your own garbage to the dump.

Know Who You Are

Now look at your life through how you got there. You, the people, your neighbors are the special ingredient. E.B. White nailed it in 1948 with his essay Here is New York. His premise was that there are three types of people:

Natives, who are born in this place and provide stability and history. Commuters who come in for work and services and live somewhere else. They are takers, while the settlers choose to live in this place and provide passion and their accomplishments.

Make Your Choice

Where you choose to live your life and become your full self is what matters. The settlers are the life blood of any location. They want to be there. They work to make it their own.

Data shows that loving your home and your community not only boosts longevity, it increases everyday joy and says a lot about who you are. Who are you?

Tell Your Story Proudly

Here’s my story: Native of Suburbia. City Settler. Country Settler. Raised on Long Island with the first malls, carpools, driving everywhere. Chose to go to college in a City. Grad school in a bigger City. Stayed in that biggest City (NYC) for 36 years.

Following my own advice, I finally figured out who I am and what I uniquely must give to the world. I figured out what makes me happy.

And so, I chose the country. No, not another country, the country. Fields, farms, 15-minute drive to a gas station, food store, a PO Box and no signs of civilization from my front porch.

You tell your story through your choices. It’s never too late to get up and move or define who you are and why you are there with new gusto. You are the special sauce that makes you, well, you!

Owning your choice about where you live defines you. Your life is not the big moments, graduations, weddings, promotions. It’s what you live every day.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you a Native, Commuter or Settler; Suburban, City or Country? What environment nurtures your soul? What story do you want to tell about your location choices? Please share it in the comments below.

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Im a country mouse currently living with my daughter in’s not me but cannot afford to live my dream life in the country with housing costs currently skyrocketing


I was raised in Suburbia, specifically San Diego. I liked it. Then, my husband and I retired, and we’ve been traveling the country in an RV for the past 22 years. We love it! Someday, when we’re forced to settle down a bit, we’ll move back to a suburban area near when I grew up. Having been all over the place, Southern California just feels like home.


I’m Nomadic. Driven by circumstances, mostly following love or opportunity. I’ve traveled a lot and now I’m ready (as a healthy 71 year old single)to pick a spot to live out my life. The problem is I have no family and I want to feel a part of a group. I want to feel I belong. I have no children. Active adult communities seems the best solution. But I’m having trouble finding something in a climate (both weather-wise and politically) I like with a rent I can afford. Am I being too picky?


I am a Settler. I started out living on the edge of the city. My neighborhood seemed like a small town. I moved to a bigger city and lived in the city. I married and raised my family just outside of the city. I sold that house and moved into a high rise apartment in the suburbs. After 9/11 happened, I moved to the coast and spent time on the edge of cities, one year in a rural area (NEVER AGAIN!), several years at the oceanfront (my favorite time), and then back into the city. I plan on selling my house soon and would like to get an apartment or condo near the Chesapeake Bay. I will feel so Settled and peaceful by the sea. Wish me luck!


I am a Settler, lived in Cities for most of my life, suburbia, never country. The environment that nurtures my soul is coastal. I love the oceans! Puget Sound! So where to next, I can’t choose. Also at this time in my life I am SOLO, which is also a factor. thanks


If you are happy and settled where you are, then I say stay. My husband and I moved for retirement from NJ, rented at the coast in SC. Husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, passed away 2 years later. Now I am living in an area I did not want to be and still do not want to be, but the thought of moving right now is too much to think about. Sadly I said things to my husband that I wished I had not said about moving – just when I had come to the conclusion that it would be okay here – we could travel, etc., he was diagnosed. The world turned upside down.


Bailey, I am so sorry for your loss! Similar situation here, my husband wanted to retire to Florida so we moved to the Gulf Coast. He died one year later. I stayed for 3 years. (I don’t like heat or humidity. Also didn’t like the political climate and lack of diversity in my community.) I didn’t know what to do for 3 years, but then suddenly I knew. I moved back to Wisconsin to be near family & old friends. I’m so much happier back here in my home state. Good luck to you, and please give it time. You’ll eventually figure it out.


I think it is more complicated than having a choice. You may not have the luxury of a choice. You may want to live in a city or even the suburbs near a large sohisticated city but do not have the finances. It is VERY expensive now to live close to a big city. Apartment rental and home prices have had huge increases. I lived on Long Island and would like to move back but since my husband passed away and since I am 81 years old, my son who lives in the South convinced me that I need to be near family. Eventually, most people need help as they age. My other son lives in CA and I was not relocating there. I now live in the South but would rather be near a big city to take advantage of museums, theaters, restaurants, large parks but I don’t have a choice.
A lot depends on finances, age and health.


And where your kids (if you have them) live!


You are absolutely right! A lot depends on finances. My dream has always been a bungalow on the beach. I live in California, probably the most expensive state to reside in :). My bungalow is not going to happen, so my husband and I are planning a move from a large house in suburbia to a more rural area close to our daughter. I’m excited about that and will embrace the mountains!!

Patricia McDougall

Bailey, I’m very sorry for your loss. You are wise to make no major decisions right now. I hope that time will bring some relief to your suffering.

The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at

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