What’s Most Important when Choosing a Retirement Community

I. Family
family In my parent’s generation, almost everyone ( 87%) aged in place (near family) until maintenance of a home became an issue. One Uncle moved to be near his sunbelt children.

My generation is just getting to retirement age. My cousins & siblings—we’re fairly close—live from the Kansas to DC and from Cleveland to Atlanta. My wife’s siblings are more concentrated while her cousins are more spread out, but she’s less close to both groups. Many have strong business ties where they currently live in addition to family/friendship ties. Work has taken several far afield, but work may require them to move again. “Chasing” children doesn’t seem practical.

We have no children. She’d like to be near her kid brother, he’s retired already but is much younger than most of my generation.

II. Friends

We both are pretty extreme introverts. Our friendships have been mostly based on work/volunteering relationships and have mostly fallen away once regular contact ceased.

We’ve talked about trying the active communities, but we’d probably not fit in well.

One Aunt recently moved into a “progressive” retirement community. She’s also an introvert. We fear that she’s not fitting in well.

III. Medical
medical We both have manageable but potentially serious medical conditions. We’re looking for places with good local doctors (mostly for emergencies) and/or specialist support within about 100 miles. We’ll probably need to travel at least for yearly checkups.

Few good doctors where we live now are taking new Medicare patients unless a previous relationship was established.

IV. Climate

A big one for my wife. She worries about missing medical and volunteer appointments. Locally the volunteer outfits will “fire” you if you’re snowed in while they’re open.

Warm but not too warm.

My solution was

Don’t get married.
We each have two modest homes—someplace warm in the winter and someplace pretty in the spring, someplace scenic & active in the summer, and someplace pretty or artsy in the fall.
I lost.

V. Culture

We both like concerts, plays, dining, etc. We pursued them actively until we started budgeting for retirement. Now that we have a secure retirement, our senses are starting to fail. My eyesight and hearing have fallen off significantly in the past 2 years. One Uncle and Aunt (not married) used to enjoy fine wine and dining. They don’t do either much anymore because the tastes are no longer there for them. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to us yet.

VI. Finance
finance I don’t want to own a home. That put’s you at the mercy of the local and state governments. Many have serious, long-term problems with overly generous pension promises—not to mention the problems that are just a twinkle in some policy geek’s eye.

I want to have a mortgage in retirement. My wife hates mortgages. Guess who wins? You can find professionals who will argue both sides. Read the arguments and decide for yourself.

Is a pension equivalent to a fixed income portfolio? No. If you die, the pension dies. See #2 above. I can envision a fairly limited set of circumstances where they would be roughly equivalent. You can find professionals who will argue both sides. Read the arguments and decide for yourself.

VII. Longevity

Expect to live longer than the predictions. I did a deep dive on the statistics of life expectancies last year. For years the rule of thumb had been, “One extra month of life expectancy for each elapsed year.” Recently, life expectancies have been going up at an increasing rate. There are many factors that affect expected longevity, e.g., sex, race, and education.

Many old economic assumptions are out the window in the global ZIRP era—Zero Interest Rate Policy. Pensions and annuities can’t survive for long at these interest rates.

100 – your age for your stock exposure should have been buried at least a decade ago.

VIII. Travel
travel We used to travel quite a bit. I’d like to continue to travel, but my wife has become a bit of a curmudgeon. I’ve noticed this tendency in myself also, but I resist it. We’d want to live within about 100 miles of a major airport if only to see relatives a few times a year.



X. Personal

Get divorced. Almost all couples will be better off unmarried under Social Security. The first time that I read about this was decades ago. It’s still true. I’ll probably lose this argument too.

There’s a crapload of stuff out there. Go to the library. Read a few samples. Follow the advisory who make sense to you.

Independent Living, Assisted Living, Lifestyle Living!


As mentioned earlier, approximately 56 retirement communities are in the metro Phoenix area for men and women over the age of 55. Another one of those communities on the other side of the city sits a senior living community called Sun Lakes, Arizona. Actually, it is conveniently located and surrounded by Chandler, Gilbert, and Mesa Arizona, and about 22 miles east of the downtown Phoenix area. This lovely spot is called Renaissance and is a world-class independent, assisted community.

In case the reader of this article is a bit confused about independent, assisted and lifestyle living communities, here is a brief primer. This is a place where you can enjoy all the freedoms you can expect as well as those you have become used to without all the worries that are associated with traditional living. This type of active adult real estate living will make your life easier and more fulfilling as well as living in a luxuriously appointed residence. Everything from excellent meals, housekeeping and transportation is offered at the Renaissance.

A monthly fee includes the following:

  • 20 meals per month
  • Weekly housekeeping
  • A resort style pool
  • Fitness center
  • Library
  • Theater room
  • Schooling classes if desired
  • Activity rooms
  • Arts and crafts areas
  • All utilities – including cable TV
  • Organized group activities
  • (Note: phones are not included)

If you have been used to other types of lifestyle activities, Renaissance will be able to fulfill your needs. Other than many planned activities on and off site, you can join friends for any of these activities:

  • Bridge
  • Bingo
  • Cards
  • Skipbo
  • Yahtzee
  • Sit and be fit
  • Brief outings to stores and other locations
  • Restaurants and Casinos visits

Special Note For First-Time Phoenix Visitors

Homes in areas like Sun City are very affordable and many will offer over one hundred different floor plans. And if you plan to buy a home in this area, you can select a property from ranch style single-family homes, a patio home (duplexes)plus garden condos. If you are on a strict budget, this area is the place you should investigate.

Sun City, Arizona is located about 17 miles northwest of the downtown Phoenix area. When Del Webb began construction on Sun city, it was in the middle of the desert. That is not the case anymore. Within six or seven miles, residents can enjoy Major League baseball spring training, the Arrowhead Mall shopping center, the Challenger Space Center Museum, West Valley Area Museum, Wildlife World Zoo, Lake Pleasant and Arizona State University West. Finally, if you are a member of a club from another state, no problem. In the Sun City area there are an estimated 200 clubs and interest groups represented. They even have a “Volunteer” group of folks who are responsible for doing this and that around town.