No longer is there an automatic last move for boomers—that is, being moved into a HOME. No longer is there a “last stage” of adult life that dictates an end to independence and to living in a home you love. Aging in place, or staying in your own home as you age, even if you need support to do so, is now a globally-accepted trend.

This means that where you chose to live can have a significant impact on how you live and how you enjoy the decades ahead. Each housing choice has the potential to be your last. Not because you cease to exist, but because the search to satisfy needs and lifestyles ends with a home that is difficult for you to top.

An individual or couple could choose to move often and frequently, or they might find one dream-satisfying location and adapt it over the years. Your future may lie somewhere in between. The more flexible your housing choice, and the more fulfilling the neighbourhood that surrounds it, the fewer reasons there are to move.

However, when the “kids have grown and gone” family headquarters becomes less desirable or less financially practical, townhouses, condominium units, and rental apartments remain popular alternatives. What has changed for 20th Century lifestyles is:

  • the ever-increasing array of condominium choices from bungalows, estate houses, and townhomes to high-rise multi-level suites, amenity-rich hotel rooms, and resort suites. Search out the ideal urban or recreational location, here or anywhere that captures your imagination. You could also own one or more units and move between them with the seasons.
  • the expansion into a new spacial alternative instead of downsizing, or moving into a smaller unit. Up-sizing or buying something larger, whether a house or condominium, is a viable choice for many. This may also involve sharing responsibilities and privileges with other family members or extended family or friends.
  • a growing list of ownership alternatives that include shared ownership variations for unrelated buyers and purchases of fractions of title which equate to weeks or months of ownership per year. More on fractional ownership variations and related lifestyle options in a later column.

You will not necessarily know when you’ve found that best-place-to-stay home until you’ve lived in it for at least a few years. View each real estate purchase with a long-term lens. We’ve all met people who still mourn the long-ago sale of a property. Perhaps that happened to you?

A Short List of Long-Term Considerations

Here are key long-term factors to consider every time you buy and before you sell, just in case this is the one. The list also offers useful discussion points for constructive conversations with parents or children as they contemplate real estate purchases or sales. Mulling these ideas around makes everyone smarter buyers, sellers, and owners:

  • When you buy as a couple, what would each do if they became the surviving owner? If this is a solo purchase, what would your choices be if you became a couple? Would this work for two, or would the property be ideal as a rental property?
  • What long-term needs or wants are compromised by the decision to buy or sell?
  • What might happen to property value between the time you buy and decide to move on? Decades of steadily-escalating real estate values can lull us into believing real estate will always increase in value over time, or, at very worst, hold its value. The investment caution about not keeping all your financial eggs in one basket applies to real estate, too.
  • What long-term municipal official plans and development patterns are in play to change and to preserve aspects of the neighbourhood and its environs, including its water shed? Local environmental groups and government agencies are good sources, online and off, for these investigations.
  • Which institutions and organizations in the area will preserve variety and quality of life over time? Mental stimulation and life-long learning are acknowledged standard requirements, so how will these needs be met? How committed are you to ensuring that technology remains an enabler for your lifestyle, financial needs, and wellness goals?
  • Which stereotypes about aging and retirement are holding you back from truly embracing the possibilities of extended living in the 21st Century? What will the outcomes be if all goes as well as possible? What could put those outcomes at risk?
  • How far into the future can you imagine? When you bought or moved into your current home, how far into the future were you looking? Look back one and then two decades to review priorities and choices. Hindsight can reveal your strengths and weaknesses at forward thinking.

Housing with a “retirement” label is not your only choice for the future. When it includes stairs and other design barriers it may not be as practical as necessary. Retirement is a concept from previous centuries that was not held in great regard then. In this century, extended living is the new reality. What type of housing do you need to make the most of these new age-free lifestyles, whatever they involve?

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