Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2018

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Retirement 101: Guidance for aging in the ‘right place’

What to do in retirement has long been an issue for those whose work years are winding down. Now, the idea of taking a close look at where to do it, and at how that place might offer what you need, is growing in importance.

The expression “aging in the right place” (as opposed to aging in place) is gaining currency among experts who advise older adults. “It’s shaped by personal vision, opportunity and what moves you,” said Linda P. Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

For Thomas Hood, 62, that vision involved being on the water, “catching a fish, not answering the phone, in shorts,” he said. To make that happen, Hood, a software salesman who lived on Long Island, is using his skills in a new line of work and soaking in the sunshine in the area of Tampa Bay, Florida, where he sells real estate (and still has to answer the phone).

He said he doesn’t quite consider himself retired but, having left his last full-time primary career job in 2014, he enjoys certain perks: “I no longer have to report to anyone and I am in charge of how much I want to work.”

Hood’s willingness to move — and to plan — were key factors in realizing his goals, and ones not universally shared, especially among an aging population.

“Older people like the status quo, like consistency, like friends, doctors and religious congregations,” said Stephen M. Golant, a gerontologist and geographer at the University of Florida and author of “Aging in the Right Place.”

Rodney Harrell, director of livability thought leadership at the AARP Public Policy Institute, which issues the AARP Livability Index, said many of those approaching retirement are shortsighted.

“People are not considering those home and community features that they are going to need,'’ he said. “They are focusing on their needs today, not needs over time,” things like transportation, access to health care, personal safety and social networks.

And others, even if they want to move, may be held back by things they didn’t anticipate — a need to care for aging parents, boomeranging adult children or the loss of a job, which can defer retirement goals.

“The best time to move is when the kids are gone and you are retiring from a career job,” said Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, the associate director of research at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, who suggests that those seeking longevity in a career plan for one in which they have already built up knowledge and skills. For Hood, real estate work drew on his sales acumen.

An expanding portfolio of resources is available to those considering whether there truly is no place like home. In its report “Best Cities for Successful Aging,” the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in Santa Monica, California, focused not on where to retire but on what it called “livability across the life course.”

It examined criteria including transportation, employment and health care in 381 metropolitan areas in the United States to determine how well they served what the institute called mature adults. (There are two age ranges, 65-79 and over 80.) Bankrate, a personal finance site, also compares cities, as does Sperling’s Best Places.

And eventually, technology may offer help to those who want to sidestep moving, said Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.

“Realizing their goal of remaining in place for as long as possible will become more likely in the years ahead,” he said, “as age-friendly initiatives and innovations such as telemedicine, autonomous transportation and new approaches to caregiving become widely available.”

In the meantime, even Hood isn’t spending all his time in a boat. In Florida he has found another essential component to a fulfilling second act — friends with common interests.

He is the volunteer president of the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society, a nonprofit with 2,000 members, and devotes about three hours a day to the group, which offers music programs in local libraries and hospitals and also raises funds for charity. The Hurricane Irma Relief Fund was a recent beneficiary, and its $2,000 donation was matched by Google.

And he did buy a pontoon boat. He is out on the water an average of once a week.