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Retiring to Urban Life
Old 08-12-2014, 06:02 AM   #1
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Retiring to Urban Life

Why Seniors are Moving to the Urban Core and Why it’s Good for Everyone - Firefly Living

If it was up to me, we would move to a downtown apartment or condo as soon as we retire (planned 1/2016). My husband isn't ready to give up the extra sq feet and garage yet.

But by mid-seventies (God willing)I would like to be in an apartment that is walkable to groceries, library, a couple of restaurants, coffee shop and robust public transportation. I have scoped out a couple of locations (depending on our budget at the time). I think it would be great physical, cognitive and social stimulation. I only worry that if we wait too long inertia will set in and the move will seem too scary. The last thing I want to do is move AWAY from civilization, as I posted in "big mistakes in retirement" thread.

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Old 08-12-2014, 06:20 AM   #2
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Having the extra space is more important to a guy. In his mind, if he is like me, he is still 20, and likes the idea of doing his own thing without worrying about neighbors.

The one thing i would have difficulty in an urban area is the crime rate. Assuming you can get into a low-crime area, it may be OK.
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Old 08-12-2014, 06:36 AM   #3
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Yes, DH is a wood worker and mountain bike enthusiast, and those will be 2 of his activities in retirement and he has the garage set up for his bikes and tools. He is also concerned he won't enjoy living in a dense situation. So we have decided to revisit the possibility of urban living a little further down the retirement road.

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Old 08-12-2014, 07:20 AM   #4
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I can definitely see the attraction, and we've wanted to move to an urban location, but the (relatively) higher costs and crime have us hesitating. The radical change in US energy independence has also delayed one of the big urban drivers. Of course there are advantages and disadvantages with urban, suburban and rural.
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Old 08-12-2014, 08:50 AM   #5
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Trulia has crime heat map so you can see what urban areas have low crime. We live in a walkable area now in a house with a garage but with shops, parks and bike trails close by. For retirement the places we like best so far are townhouses in older areas with garages in complexes with lots of greenery and trees in walkable areas.
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Old 08-12-2014, 09:00 AM   #6
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The radical change in US energy independence has also delayed one of the big urban drivers.

It may just be that I haven't had my morning caffeine jolt yet, but I'm not sure I understand what you mean here?

I'm a bit of a hermit by nature, and would prefer to live somewhere that I can't see or hear my neighbors. DW prefers a traditional suburb with lots of neighbors, and that's where we live now. I'm hoping for a bit more privacy in retirement, but will have to weigh the practical considerations of aging with my desire for solitude. Being able to walk to a local bar/pub for a pint definitely has some appeal...
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Old 08-12-2014, 09:20 AM   #7
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I'm a bit of a hermit by nature, and would prefer to live somewhere that I can't see or hear my neighbors. DW prefers a traditional suburb with lots of neighbors, and that's where we live now.
My situation as well. I know better than to expect anything different in the future. Good thing there are millions of acres of public land in my state, much within an hour's drive.
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Old 08-12-2014, 09:29 AM   #8
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I'm a bit of a hermit by nature, and would prefer to live somewhere that I can't see or hear my neighbors. DW prefers a traditional suburb with lots of neighbors, and that's where we live now. I'm hoping for a bit more privacy in retirement, but will have to weigh the practical considerations of aging with my desire for solitude. Being able to walk to a local bar/pub for a pint definitely has some appeal...
We lived in the center of downtown of a major city for several years. We never saw/spoke to a neighbor. We never saw a familiar face other than those who worked at the local shops.

It was completely anonymous! We were more hermits there than anywhere else we lived!

One thought: as we age, it's a good idea to live near a good hospital! If you're a two hour drive from good care it could be the difference between life and death.
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Old 08-12-2014, 09:43 AM   #9
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It may just be that I haven't had my morning caffeine jolt yet, but I'm not sure I understand what you mean here?
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Old 08-12-2014, 10:10 AM   #10
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But by mid-seventies (God willing)I would like to be in an apartment that is walkable to groceries, library, a couple of restaurants, coffee shop and robust public transportation.
This is not unusual. I used to work in a rural area where people owned big lots, chopped wood to heat their homes and often owned farm animals. Several of my peers have retired, sold the big homestead for Big Bucks to a developer and moved to a condo in the city. They enjoy being close to everything and huge decrease in home maintenance work.
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Old 08-12-2014, 10:20 AM   #11
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Of course, for those who really want to get away from it all after retirement there is always this option. Perhaps it would help to develop a friendship with Elon Musk.

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Old 08-12-2014, 10:33 AM   #12
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Having the extra space is more important to a guy. In his mind, if he is like me, he is still 20, and likes the idea of doing his own thing without worrying about neighbors.

The one thing i would have difficulty in an urban area is the crime rate. Assuming you can get into a low-crime area, it may be OK.
Not all guys; and not this one.
The crime rate "downtown" in the city where we live is 27% lower than the overall crime rate for the entire city.

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Yes, DH is a wood worker and mountain bike enthusiast, and those will be 2 of his activities in retirement and he has the garage set up for his bikes and tools. He is also concerned he won't enjoy living in a dense situation. So we have decided to revisit the possibility of urban living a little further down the retirement road.
It all depends on what city you're in but, my city's downtown is a bikers heaven, and right on the edge of some of the greatest biking, hiking and walking trails in the country.

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Trulia has crime heat map so you can see what urban areas have low crime. We live in a walkable area now in a house with a garage but with shops, parks and bike trails close by. For retirement the places we like best so far are townhouses in older areas with garages in complexes with lots of greenery and trees in walkable areas.
We have these things, and we live in a condo in the heart of downtown.

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We lived in the center of downtown of a major city for several years. We never saw/spoke to a neighbor. We never saw a familiar face other than those who worked at the local shops.

It was completely anonymous! We were more hermits there than anywhere else we lived!

One thought: as we age, it's a good idea to live near a good hospital! If you're a two hour drive from good care it could be the difference between life and death.
It doesn't have to be so; DW and I found the 'burbs more "anonymous" than living in an urban environment. We have lots of friends in/around our condo building, and always have more to do than we can do. And, we are not the most gregarious people you've ever met.

My view on this is that it's a very individual thing; it depends on the person(s) and the city. After 32 moves, 16 with DW; in urban, suburban and rural; in as much as 5,000SF and as little as 700SF; I can honestly say I never "hated" any place. But, perhaps all that moving made me more malleable than most. In the end, I think that whether we're happy in an urban (suburban or rural) environment is more about what's in us than around us.
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Old 08-12-2014, 11:37 AM   #13
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I'm with you, Miranda!

I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life: midwest, east coast, west coast. And in a couple of Big 10 towns: Madison and Iowa City, which I loved.

I have never liked living in any place where I have to get in the car to get a gallon of milk. Not a fan of sprawl.

Now I'm living in in what for me seems ideal: an east bay suburb, that is close to Oakland and Berkeley and right on the BART line. The key thing for me is to live within walking distance of the suburb's "downtown", if they have one (many new ones do not). I love being able to walk a few blocks to a wonderful family owned grocery store, in addition to Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's. Plus the bank, library, post office and several very good restaurants. Not to mention the quilt store and the bead store.

And several good hiking trails are close by.

so you may be able find an older suburb that meets your requirements. Or a university town.
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Old 08-12-2014, 11:42 AM   #14
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We watch House Hunters' International for ideas. An urban condo or townhouse with a terrace or patio in a walkable area with shops, cafes, farmer's market and a lake or ocean nearby would suit us best. My favorite HHI show was a couple with an apartment in Cannes, and surprisingly inexpensive rent, too, though I don't know what year the show is from so maybe it is more these days.
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Old 08-12-2014, 11:54 AM   #15
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My view on this is that it's a very individual thing; it depends on the person(s) and the city. After 32 moves, 16 with DW; in urban, suburban and rural; in as much as 5,000SF and as little as 700SF; I can honestly say I never "hated" any place. But, perhaps all that moving made me more malleable than most. In the end, I think that whether we're happy in an urban (suburban or rural) environment is more about what's in us than around us.
Yes I agree it is a personal matter. I like to think my plan of urban living will make it easier and more pleasant to age in place, but there may be a lot of things I'm not considering. I feel strongly about not repeating (what I view as) the mistakes my parents have made in retirement. I want to be in a location where I can thrive without a car, and where I will be able to easily arrange any help or services I may need. My mother is so rural I am having trouble finding someone to clean her house, for example. My MIL (83 y/o) driving skills are not the best, yet she has to make a left turn onto a major highway (70 mph), no traffic light, to go to her nearest town/grocery/gym.

I know when we travel to a city we really enjoy all the different choices of things to do, the ease of getting around without a car, etc. I also understand that being a resident is different than being a tourist. Maybe we can find a way to test drive the situation...

Well here's hoping I live so long to experience these problems...

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Old 08-12-2014, 12:07 PM   #16
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We currently live in a downtown apartment after giving up a large suburban house. I grew up in an urban area condo so the adjustment was easy for me. It was not so easy for DW who spent most of her life in the suburbs. Within a 2-block radius we have:

1 large grocery store
our doctor's and dentist's offices
1 train station
2 subway stations and countless bus stops
1 taxi stand
1 branch of the public library
6 coffee shops
25+ restaurants with a good variety
my barber and DW's hair salon
4 bank branches
3 cleaners
1 post office and a UPS store
4 pharmacies
1 farmers market

If one is willing to extend one's horizon to a 4-block radius, then Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco, Target, REI, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc... are all accessible.

We are close to a fire/EMT station and less than 2 miles away from 2 major hospitals. There is a police station nearby as well.

Having lived in urban, suburban, and rural settings, I think that people can be as anonymous as they choose to be no matter where they live.

I also found that neighbors can be annoying pretty much anywhere.

I feel pretty safe here. But like in every crowded space, one must remain vigilant.

I personally find 2 major downsides to downtown living. The first is the incessant noise. Day or night, it is noisy, which can be a bummer for people like me who enjoy their peace and quiet. The background noise in my apartment is around 50dB despite the fact that it is new construction with good noise insulation. And then you have sirens and horns on top of that. I sometimes have to put on my noise-cancelling headphones to have a quiet moment, although one learns to block a lot of that over time. The second is the air quality. Oh my. I have air filters in every room because of my allergies. In the suburbs, the filters would barely get dirty. Here, the filters quickly get saturated with black dust and oily residues. Breathing this stuff can't be good.

There are also a number of minor annoyances. For example, walking to the grocery store might sounds appealing at first. But it can quickly become a chore, especially if you have to carry some heavy items like cat litter or beverage bottles. And when you don't feel good, it just makes it even worse. Earlier this year, I hurt my back. But I still had to eat. Carrying that shopping bag back to my apartment was agony.
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:12 PM   #17
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DW is sentimentally attached to our place in the 'burbs, in spite of it being 3 miles to the nearest grocery store, and the stairs, and narrow doorways, and huge yards needing constant care, and generally having to drive to get to ANYTHING other than more 'burbs.

I'd love to move to a condo in an urban core. DW is not easily convinced. Meanwhile, I have visions of our being incapacitated in place in suburban isolation, until unpaid bills force someone to look in on our withered corpses draped over some lovely Pottery Barn pieces.

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Old 08-12-2014, 01:01 PM   #18
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The crime rate "downtown" in the city where we live is 27% lower than the overall crime rate for the entire city.
Cost adjusted? There are undoubtedly exceptions, but in most cities a $X suburban home will be in a safer neighborhood than an $X urban home - at least that's what we found in every city we researched. You could expect an urban home at twice the cost might be safer than a suburban home at $X - but that's not apples to apples. You're paying a significant premium (and/or accepting far less sqft) for lower crime, a premium many simply can't afford - we couldn't.
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Old 08-12-2014, 01:56 PM   #19
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This is a great discussion! DW and I have gone back and forth on this for the last 35 years and have tried them all. The problem is that it depends on which of our priorities we value on any particular day.

Priority - Rank
Not disturbed by neighbors - Rural, Suburban, City
Walkable access to stuff - City, Suburban, Rural
Access to Arts - City, Suburban, Rural
Affordable housing - Rural, Suburban, City

etc.

We finally decided that we have a love/hate relationship with the city. And a love/hate relationship with the suburbs. And a love/hate relationship with rural living.

We are currently trying out a suburb again...
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Old 08-12-2014, 03:30 PM   #20
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Cost adjusted? There are undoubtedly exceptions, but in most cities a $X suburban home will be in a safer neighborhood than an $X urban home - at least that's what we found in every city we researched. You could expect an urban home at twice the cost might be safer than a suburban home at $X - but that's not apples to apples. You're paying a significant premium (and/or accepting far less sqft) for lower crime, a premium many simply can't afford - we couldn't.
Hmmmm. I hadn't thought of it that way.

I checked our area, and it seems there's not a tremendous $/SF difference to 'buy safety' in our downtown. It's just a couple of data points, and I'm sure it varies by region but, here's our data.

Median $/SF in one of the most popular suburbs: $141
Median $/SF for city as a whole: $104
Nice downtown condo in desirable & safe area: $148

As you can see from the $/SF, we are not in an expensive area on either of the coasts.
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