69-year-old mother looking for a place to retire...

My mother is looking for a nice, liberal, warm community to retire to. She found most of Florida too conservative and often too "old" -- she is still active and social and doesn't want to be in the equivalent of a nursing home yet.  California and Arizona are too far away (she flies to visit grandchildren many times a year.)  She basically wants a Maplewood/South Orange that is warm(er) year-round. (And affordable). Same demographics in terms of education, political leanings, careers, etc.  Where would you go?  Or where have you gone?  Or your parents or grandparents gone?  Suggestions welcome.


I've heard good things about North Carolina (Chapel Hill), but haven't had firsthand experience.


A tall order! Let me know when you find that place. Think someplace in the Pacific Northwest? Maybe some of the communities outside of Seattle, far enough away to not be heavy commuter towns, like Poulsbo? Of course then you have a major schlepp to airports and major medical centers.


The Redmond/Bend area of Oregon is very beautiful and has lots of retired persons. I don't know if the area is liberal or conservative. Perhaps someone else has insight on that. We were there last week and one of the waiters who served us said that the place is being overrun by retirees from California.

I would look into college towns as they tend to be more liberal - even in generally conservative states.


Student_Council said:

Austin TX perhaps?

That's what I was thinking if Warm is a priority.


Second for Chapel Hill/Raleigh, and for college towns generally. I recently visited some longtime friends there (all transplants from the northeast in their early 50s, who are very happy and plan to stay) and was duly impressed. Easy to get to, too. 

My only reservation, probably because I'm used to densely populated areas with good public transit and I like to walk, is that you spend a lot of time driving. But I think that's probably true of most places outside this area.


Santa Fe, New Mexico?


Delray Beach, FL.  It's arty diverse, lots of galleries and restaurants and interesting shops.  Stay away from the gated inland communities where they warehouse old people, and stay far, far away from Kings Point, which is the worst.  There are lots of nice, new apartments in town, in three or four story buildings, near shops and within walking distance of the beach.  The beachfront is at least least a mile long, free and open to the public for the price of a parking meter (if you drive), and there are bike racks if you ride.  There are no high rises along the public beach--you just walk onto it.

As for food shopping, there are at least a couple of Publix, there's a Fresh Market, and a Trader Joes just opened last year.  It's not too far from a big mall in Boca, and there's a pretty good museum, and free concerts and a farmer's market every Saturday.

We have a time share there for three weeks every January.  We're retired but we don't want to move away from here.

 

 



I just took a visit to Asheville North Carolina... it is happening!!!  around 30 mins outside is a  small town Brevard NC that winds up on the Forbes best retirement towns.  Weather is great lots to do . You will want to visit regualarly....


@Lizziecat is right about Delray Beach. I moved from SO to Delray earlier this year, and love it here. Yes, there are huge communities of older adults (the upside is that there are tons of services and social activities for seniors), but there are plenty of great restaurants, cultural activities and young people living here, too. And while Florida overall is certainly a Red state, this area is full of people from the Northeast, who bring along their political attitudes. Happy to give folks a tour if they want to come check it out. 

 
Edited to add: Delray has a new on-demand (like Uber, but FREE) electric car service that ferries people around town (disclosure: I helped them a bit with their app) http://www.ridedowntowner.com/ 


If she flies frequently to visit grandchildren but doesn't want to be too far away (not long fights?), being within reasonable reach of a good airport, ideally with direct service to desired destinations, is something to consider. Chapel Hill is served by RDU, which has some direct metro area fights; Asheville is trickier in terms of  air connections and is, remember, in the mountains, where they do sometimes get snow, though it is overall not as severe a climate as in the Northeast. Asheville is delightful; one can always go there for a weekend from Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has long had active adult/retirement communities and the perennial appeal of a lively university town. I find Asheville a little precious--as in it's a nice place to visit but might not want to live there. Not familiar with Delray Beach but it sounds lovely. As far as red state/blue state, North Carolina is leaning red again but has any number of enlightened enclaves including parts of the Charlotte area. Sometimes you just have to hope that your congressional district fits your politics and ignore the larger picture. Then again, politics may not be as key as she thinks; I have found lately that there are people who read a lot, go to concerts, like good restaurants and don't vote quite the way I do, but it's quite possible to enjoy spending time with them. Demographics and politics are intertwined but not identical.  It is more comfortable having at least some neighbors who read the Times as well as the local papers. (The Charlotte Observer is pretty liberal editorially; I think the Raleigh paper probably is too.)

If warm weather weren't on the wish list I'd suggest  Burlington (VT) area, Ann Arbor, and Madison (WI). If her car has a garage to live in and the HOA clears the snow, would climate be as key? Might be something to think about.

I would suggest the OP's mother try to spend a season in one or more of the places she is considering, subleasing a condo or something in the target neighborhood to get a better sense of what life might be like for a single woman. (There are also communities with single-family homes and townhouses as well as conventional multi-families, so she may find quite a variety of options.) She will want a community of like-minded people who are not tied to being part of a couple.  As far as affordable, that is such a broad category and varies to some extent by geography; I know housing is cheaper in the Charlotte area than in the NYC area, but don't know prices in Chapel Hill or Asheville. For some people, a $350,000 two-bedroom two bath condo in a nice community with some amenities is a great deal and in some places that price is absurdly low, while for some people it may be too much of a stretch.

And as an observation  from someone who is only marginally younger than the OP's mother: with good luck and good health she has years of active free-style living ahead of her; I hope she's doing her own research and looking at display ads in the Times real estate section, the New Yorker, and exploring various websites highlighting the regions she might like. Talk about nursing homes is premature and ageist, but it might be reassuring to look into the continuing care communities such as Kendal, if not for now for ten years down the road. (They aren't always in warm places though; the one in Hanover [NH] is supposed to be wonderful with along waiting list.) 


Yes! My MIL (same age) just bought a 1-bed condo here for a very low price. Covered parking and close access to grandkids.

grayhill2 said:

If she flies frequently to visit grandchildren but doesn't want to be too far away (not long fights?), being within reasonable reach of a good airport, ideally with direct service to desired destinations, is something to consider. Chapel Hill is served by RDU, which has some direct metro area fights; Asheville is trickier in terms of  air connections and is, remember, in the mountains, where they do sometimes get snow, though it is overall not as severe a climate as in the Northeast. Asheville is delightful; one can always go there for a weekend from Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has long had active adult/retirement communities and the perennial appeal of a lively university town. I find Asheville a little precious--as in it's a nice place to visit but might not want to live there. Not familiar with Delray Beach but it sounds lovely. As far as red state/blue state, North Carolina is leaning red again but has any number of enlightened enclaves including parts of the Charlotte area. Sometimes you just have to hope that your congressional district fits your politics and ignore the larger picture. Then again, politics may not be as key as she thinks; I have found lately that there are people who read a lot, go to concerts, like good restaurants and don't vote quite the way I do, but it's quite possible to enjoy spending time with them. Demographics and politics are intertwined but not identical.  It is more comfortable having at least some neighbors who read the Times as well as the local papers. (The Charlotte Observer is pretty liberal editorially; I think the Raleigh paper probably is too.)

If warm weather weren't on the wish list I'd suggest  Burlington (VT) area, Ann Arbor, and Madison (WI). If her car has a garage to live in and the HOA clears the now, would climate be as key? Might be something to think about.


I would suggest the OP's mother try to spend a season in one or more of the places she is considering, subleasing a condo or something in the target neighborhood to get a better sense of what life might be like for a single woman. (There are also communities with single-family homes and townhouses as well as conventional multi-families, so she may find quite a variety of options.) She will want a community of like-minded people who are not tied to being part of a couple.  As far as affordable, that is such a broad category and varies to some extent by geography; I know housing is cheaper in the Charlotte area than in the NYC area, but don't know prices in Chapel Hill or Asheville. For some people, a $350,000 two-bedroom two bath condo in a nice community with some amenities is a great deal and in some places that price is absurdly low, while for some people it my be too much of a stretch.

And as an observation  from someone who is only marginally younger than the OP's mother: with good luck and good health she has years of active free-style living ahead of her; I hope she's doing her own research and looking at display ads in the Times real estate section, the New Yorker, and exploring various websites highlighting the regions she might like. Talk about nursing homes is premature and ageist, but it might be reassuring to look into the continuing care communities such as Kendal, if not for now for ten years down the road. (They aren't always in warm places though; the one in Hanover [NH] is supposed to be wonderful with along waiting list.) 

As someone who remembers being 69, I am aware how quickly the vigorous self at that age morphs into the senior citizen!

If your mother is going to be living alone, no spouse or significant other, then my advice would be to find a community with good medical facilities and doctors. Also a county with many resources for seniors.  Cut back on living where flying on holidays to visit family is the only option. Expensive and very stressful. Also, there are many retirement communities where social activities quickly get new arrivals a chance to find friends.

If your mom wants a warmer climate, within let's say a drivable distance from M-SO, that may be problem. 


I second Austin and several surrounding small towns which are attracting retirees. I have a few very liberal and smart friends who have retired to Key West and it seems to have quite a lot to offer. In both cases (Austin and Key West) summers can be miserable and most people feel the need to come up with plans to relocate for much of them (I guess that is when visiting kids and grandkids could take place).


My in-laws live in a highly rated CCRC (continuing care retirement community) called                    Meadowood, in Worcester, PA, outside of Phila.  There are several types of housing options there,            medical care, excellent dining facilities, and a range of activities.                                                            They have been there for 15 years and, where it was fairly conservative when they arrived, I have seen some "liberals" moving in.  Would definitely do a few visits before judging.


My parents live in Williamsburg, VA and it is lovely.  They are still in single family homes but will most likely move to Williamsburg Landing (a CCRC) when they (or we) feel it is time.  There are four distinct seasons but winters are much milder than here and you are within a couple hours drive of the beach, the mountains or Washington DC for museums etc.  There is a conservative/tea party presence but liberals as well. I highly recommend checking it out!


As your mother ages, she may prefer to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

My mother "retired" to Florida at about you mother's age, and moved here {Winchester Garden] about 6 yrs ago, in her early-mid eighties, to be closer to family.  She loves the warmth and liberal atmosphere at WG.


My grand mother is in Palm Cottage because of her dementia problem. This is best community to live after retirement in florida. I think your grand mother should go for Palm Cottage.


I just turned 60 and had been looking for just what you describe for your mom.   Over the course of a few years we took several trips to warmer locations and explored:  Hilton Head, Charleston and environs, Houston ( my daughter is there  ), Chapel Hill NC, Nashville TN,  Jacksonville, Delray Beach, Stuart, Miami and Orlando Florida.

We found everything we were looking for in St Petersburg Florida.   St Petersburg is a beautiful small city of 250,000 that is part of the Tampa Bay metro area - with 3 million people. Tampa is a 30 minute drive away.  Spectacular St Pete beach, on the gulf is an 18 minute drive away.    St Pete is known as being quite liberal.  There is a significant and active gay population. Both Eckerd College and the University of South Florida have campuses in St Pete.   There is major development going on with a huge expansion of the USF medical School and a medical research - tech center being built in the southern part of downtown.   The arts community is vital and active.  There are lots of galleries and live music performances.  They have a dozens of large festivals every year.   We were there during rib fest (we thought the fuss was kind of silly until we heard America ( remember them) playing in the park 4 blocks away from a house we were considering.

People tell us that 25 years ago the downtown was a war zone but now it is beautiful .  The city is located on the bay.  The central business district adjoins the bay.  Right on the bay is the Mahaffey Arts complex where the Orchestra of Florida performs, the Museum of Fine Arts, The Dali Museum, Yacht Club and spectacular Vinoy Resort.  Also on the bay are a string of spectacular luxury hirise apartment complexes - but at street level they have wonderful restaurants , shops and galleries with sidewalk cafes. The entire downtown is totally walkable.  And there are a variety of nice and affordable residential neighborhoods that are either a convenient walk or very short drive to downtown. It is pedestrian heaven.   Just north of the downtown is a residential area called the Old Northeast that feels like a semi tropical Maplewood  with houses built in the 1920s on tree lined brick cobble stone streets.  The Old Northeast is bounded to the east by a spectacular string of parks that run along the bay.  So most of the Old Northeast is walkable to downtown and the parks.  

We LOVE the mix of housing stock.  On a typical block you may have a few large colonials ranging in price from 800K to over 1MM,  some modest bungalows ranging in price from 300's to 700's depending on condition and size, and on the corner a small 2 story apartment building with 8 one bedroom rental apartments.  Most of the Old Northeast is walkable both to the spectacular parks on the bay ( with a beach, an aquatic complex, a dog park and drop dead beautiful park areas)  and to downtown.  

The farther you go from downtown the more reasonable housing prices get.

We first discovered St Petersburg 1 1/2 years ago and have visited a total of three times, in January, Novemeber and just returned from a 10 day stay where we BOUGHT A HOUSE.

There are a number of great neighborhoods adjoining downtown and the Old Northeast that are not quite as pricy. We have seen prices skyrocket before our very eyes.   There are a lot of great neighborhoods that are easily accessible to everything you want that are as charming as the Old North East.  Crescent Lake and Crescent Heights ( where we are buying a 2000 sq ft 1915 craftsman bungalow) adjoin the Old Northeast and are centered on the 50 acre crescent lake park .  Roser Park, Kenwood and other neighborhoods directly adjoining downtown are being transformed.   About a 5 minute drive from downtown - shorter than the distance from downtown Maplewood to downtown south Orange, you can buy a 1400 sq ft renovated bungalow with a legal rentable renovated 1 bedroom garage apartment ( going rate 1200 per month) for $300,000.  

There's more to share but I'm out of time for now.   PM me if you want more info - we found a wonderful cottage through Airbnb to stay in that is in the center of everything and we have a great realtor.   Ill post some photos later


Thanks for posting this.  Can't imagine living in Florida...but I am always curious where people from our community go next.


some photos of st pete

That beach photo, believe it or not, is along the park just a few blocks from downtown.


Texas is far and expensive. I know people who have moved there and love it but the distance and cost to visit is something to consider, especially as you get older.  I would stay on the East Coast.  My parents moved to Surfside Beach, SC (borders Myrtle Beach) and loved it.  They felt Florida would be too warm.   Housing is still cheap there.  Last  December and January was beach weather.  Housing is half what is was 8-10 years ago but going up so good time to buy.   There are a lot of retirees there.  Property taxes are much lower if you are an in state resident. There is also a discount for senior citizens which reduce it more.  Assisted Living when we went to look was less than half of what it is here.     SC also has a pension deduction from your State Income Tax, reducing your State Taxes.

Edited: I meant Texas travel to the Northeast is expensive.  I cannot say about housing now


South Carolina is quite different culturally and politically than New Jersey.  My brother and his family have lived there (in Myrtle Beach) for a number of years (after living in VA, NC, and OR).  Social circles tend to form around church communities and therefore if you are not a member of an organized religious institution it can be a little more challenging.  If your politics tend to the right, you will find many who share your views.  If not, you have to look a little harder.  It is certainly a beautiful state with a low cost of living in general but it is definitely a different "vibe" than SOMa.


St. Pete or Sarasota FL.


the Tampa/St Pete area is absolutely gorgeous. Some of the nicest beaches I've seen. We really like it there. We want to buy a condo or small house ther soon. Should have jumped on it 5 or 6 years ago when the market was depressed but still many nicely priced condos can be found.


Chapel Hill is nice, but pretty car dependent. Raleigh is very bland and sprawling. It's like Atlanta with better taste. Durham is a little more of a real place, with terrific AAA baseball, but its poorer and a little rougher. (Nothing to compare to our pockets of poverty, though.) 

Austin has become a traffic-clogged mess of hipsters from elsewhere. 

I suggest Charlottesville, Virginia. Urbane, beautiful, compact, easy access to Washington and its transportation and museums and full-time stimulation from the university. It can be pricey, though. 


Austin is roasting hot, and a lot more hype than reality.  


My grandparents moved from coral Gables FL to St Pete in the 1980's.  They lived waterfront on the Boca Ciega Bay until they died.  They were about 5 minutes from the Treasure Island Beaches, on the gulf coast with a calmer gulf, less hurricanes, and a more relaxed environment.  the west coast of Fl is also more comfortable if your parents dont speak Spanish


I'm a South Florida girl, but if I were retiring, I would go South of Tampa toward Marco.



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