Gay Marriage Complexities

Adventures in Moving Far Away

Last week, on my post that was mostly about the new paint job in my apartment, Lee left this comment:

”Ronni, you and Celia started a conversation I'd like to eavesdrop on a little longer about moving to a new place when one is no longer young.

“When I was young, I moved constantly: If I got a pay raise I could move to a safer neighborhood; if I found a cuter apartment or wanted housemates, I'd just move. It was never disruptive, only exciting. I didn't have much stuff and it was all used, anyway, so I'd have a garage sale and then buy new stuff (also fun) at my favorite thrift stores.

“But now that I'm grayer, the idea of a move as dramatic as yours, Ronni, is kind of intimidating. Did you already have friends in your new home after Maine? I know you've written that you like your own company, but what was it like to uproot like that?”

Did you ever have sleepless nights? Or is it still an adventure to you? I'd love to hear TGB readers on that one, especially if they've moved to completely different places, even to another country, after they've left career jobs.

That's a worthwhile discussion for us to have today. I can speak only for myself, so here goes.

I'm not new to moving. Like Lee when I was young, I moved often and on whim for many of the same reasons. After I married, we moved from city to city until we landed permanently in New York City. It was love at first site, I never tired of it and I would go back in a minute if I could afford to.

I had every intention of living in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die. But a long bout of unemployment made that impossible; the only way to go on eating was to sell my home and find a less expensive way to live.

That was the killer decision. Agony. It took a three-day, sleepless weekend of wailing and sobbing to make peace with the inevitable. But because my survival was at stake and I am nothing if not practical, I emerged – however exhausted and sad - ready to move forward.

Since New York had become my home over 40 years, I had nowhere to return to and had no idea where to go. So I made a list. Although it might be an adventure to live in another country, I didn't want that much new in my life and did not consider it.

I eliminated the entire lower half of the U.S. because I deeply dislike hot weather. Then I got rid of the middle northern part because I like oceans. And I like cities. So I winnowed it down to Seattle, Boston and the two Portlands – Maine and Oregon. I didn't put San Francisco on the list because I'd lived there during my late teens and half of my twenties – been there, done that.

I'd worked in Boston for short periods over the years and it never sang to me. Seattle seems to me to have all the disadvantages of big cities, but few of the advantages.

In the end, I chose Maine for its proximity to New York and the idea that New York friends would be more likely to make that trip for a visit than clear across the country to Oregon. And I could visit New York in a one-hour plane ride.

After four years, I knew I had made a mistake. Portland, Maine with 65,000 population is not a city by my definition, and I was beginning to wonder how much longer I would be physically capable of digging my car out of snow a couple of times a week for six months of the year. So in 2010, I moved to Oregon.

Because my initial move to Maine was due to necessity, I did not, could not, spend time thinking about the enormity of leaving everything and everyone I'd known for 40 years. (I think I got through that part over that long, weepy weekend.)

Although I didn't think of it as an adventure, it was exciting to contemplate a new kind of life while my apartment was on the market and I traveled to Maine half a dozen times to check out neighborhoods and homes to buy.

A number of people suggested I rent for a year while I learned my way around the city and I could see the wisdom in that. But I was on a tight budget and didn't want to throw away thousands of dollars that I could put toward the purchase a new home, the need to own a car and the costs of the move.

Using common sense and, after the experience of 42 moves in my lifetime, I chose well, within my price range and was happy with the apartment in Maine – just not the town.

There were no sleepless nights, Lee, but that isn't in my nature. Sleep, in difficult times, has always been my escape. So I think it's important in big moves, to know yourself well.

In a new location, it is not as easy to make friends as when one is working. It was a long time, in Maine, before I found a few people to hang out with. Again, I think one's nature is important in this regard.

Since childhood, I have always spent a lot of time alone and it's not a burden to me. Additionally, during the 1980s, many of my closest friends – the kind you don't replace easily in any circumstance or at any age – along with neighbors and acquaintances died young. I learned then that friendship is not forever. I welcome it, but I don't count on it.

Without a job in a new town, we need to make other kinds of effort to find people with whom we are simpatico and all I can suggest is to follow your interests. Here, I have my brother and his wife and I'm meeting people through my t'ai chi classes, the local library, local politics and my ongoing research into all things aging.

And here's an advantage to blogging: Over these eight years of Time Goes By, I've made many good friends. Yes, most are at a distance, but they are no less important to me for it.

Once I was unpacked and settled in Maine, having these daily interactions through the blog, email and, sometimes, phone meant I was not alone. That part of my life went on uninterrupted and I suspect the continuum of it was important to being comfortable in a new place.

Overall, the moving itself is big-time pain in the ass. I wish never to pack or unpack a hundred or more boxes again. I will go to great lengths now, after having done it twice in four years, to never do it again. So choose your destination carefully.

It doesn't seem like I've really answered your questions, Lee. Except for missing New York which has become something I just live with, I'm happy with this last move. And maybe I'm not the one to answer since the first move to Maine was a financial necessity and the second one to Oregon was a spiritual necessity. I think there would be different considerations without those imperatives.

So now it's your turn, TGB readers. In addition to Lee's questions above, if you are contemplating a move to a new place, how do you feel about it? How are you choosing the new town or city? And, of course, why are you moving?

If you have already relocated, how has it worked out? Have you had second thoughts? What has settling in been like? Tell us – and Lee - your stories.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Aunt Knett


This blog made me figure out how many times I have moved in my life. Four of the moves were done at my parents' discretion. One of those to a place I loved and hoped to spend the rest of my life-- 80 acres on the edge of wilderness. When I married, and began choosing my own moves, and we had six of them (if I don't count buying a second home in Arizona which did have to be furnished with a combination of things bought there as well as brought down). When we settled onto the farm with the last one, it has proven longstanding with now 34 years on that land. I tend to be possessive of land more than houses, but we won't stay there forever. We just don't know where we will go when the time comes we must release the place due to age.

When we have to leave the farm, I will dread it not only because it'll likely be the end of raising livestock (unless I find a very understanding neighborhood where I can take a cow and sheep or two or four). It will be leaving a lifestyle as well as a home. Worse when you operate a farm, there is all kinds of stuff you buy and must own. What is outside the house will be more scary to contemplate moving or getting rid of than what is inside (if I don't consider the attic). I really don't look forward to doing any of it but the day will come when it will have to happen.

I think of my old friend Duck with this topic. He took his inheritance and moved from the east coast to buy a house in Mexico. There he could live simply, have help with the housework, and have a dog. Unethical people took all his money, and he retreated to San Diego. In his sixties, he attempted suicide. Botched, he recovered with some side noticeable side effects. The remainder of his life was lived with great dignity and in helping others. Even in his last confused year in a nursing home, he was a gift to his friends.

Moved three years ago from a major city. We cut about $45,000 out of our annual cost of living. We simply weren't making enough use of the city's cultural life. The cost of doing many of those things (concerts, museums, etc.) had more than tripled in recent years and our income had not.

Selling, packing, moving and getting resettled were all exhausting, but we have few regrets.

We do find that while people are generally friendly, they are busy and barely have time for the friends they've had for ages. Many people have a few lifelong friends, and our skills at making new friends are as rusty as theirs.

Although I have moved 21 times in my adult life I can't contribute any sage advice to someone moving to another State or City after reaching elderhood.

My last move was within 5 miles of my house. In that house I had a swimming pool, a backyard lawn and many plants to care for. I had sworn that they would carry me out feet first when I moved into that house, but as the years went by maintenance was getting more difficult. I knew I could not continue doing it for much longer.

I was 74 when I made my last move and, like you Ronni, I had to do it alone. I shudder when I think of doing it again. I guess my only advice to elders who are living in a house they will no longer be able to maintain would be to move now while you have the energy to pack, deal with stress, and adapt to new surroundings.

Circumstances and are different with individual(s) and must be taken into account. Just be honest with yourself when making the momentous decision on whether to 'stay put' or move. First write two lists; one of the pros and one of the cons and carefully analyze the outcome. If you see it's time to move then don't hesitate. Moving only gets harder as you get older.

Making lists like the ones Darlene mentioned helped me decide whether or not to move from Seattle to Phoenix in order to be with (and marry) the handsome widower/electrician I had met on a plane during a Southwest winter holiday. I had lived in Washington State all my life and had been involved in local politics and had many friends and family members there.

Arizona - Phoenix, in particular - was and continues to be shocking to my system. It seems like a foreign country to me, even after almost two years. But gradually I am finding small groups where I feel at home, some of them through your blog! Yoga class, a political discussion group at our local used book store, a New York Jewish friend made when I needed a travel agent (now my best friend here), talking on the phone and occasional visits with a few close friends who live elsewhere, blogging about my experiences and the support of my spouse all have helped counter the occasional times of lonely tears.

The winter desert does grow on you, and then we can travel or move to high country during the hot summers! Arizona politics still make me grind my teeth, though!

I've only lived in three cities my entire life..Illinois, Florida and Oregon (Hi, neighbor, Ronni!) Each place, of course, has had it's advantages and disadvantages, but by far, my favorite place to live has been Oregon..it's raining buckets today, but the scenery is worth it.

Sometimes I wonder how might I feel about it here if I get to reach old-old status and there is an ice storm. If I am old-old and all alone..won't I wish I had moved back to Florida where navigation for elders is pretty good? I don't know, I don't know. I am not in the least qualified to address this question about moving during advanced years. I suspect I'd be bad at it. My plan is to work hard at being as outdoorsy as I can be..because there are lots of elders who seem to do well here, particularly if they keep moving (I mean moving with one's feet, not moving with a U-Haul).

At age 70 I decided to move to the big city to be near children and grandchildren.
I tried to adjust but when you have memories of the country it was difficult for me. Put the city home on the market and lost part of my nest egg for the future. Still moved on and built a small home on my country property. I garden, write, take pictures, and stay in touch with children and grandchildren by email when they are not visiting. I love being "home" - and also know I do not have the physical energy as in the past. At the moment I can handle inside work and with occasional help outside work.
Hopefully I can stay in my beautiful surroundings my lifetime. If not - then condo will happen.

I was just having this conversation with my sister and her two adult daughters. Depending on what finally happens with Social Security and/or Medicare, I may have to sell my teeny tiny bungalow outside of DC and move to a less expensive area when I get closer to retirement age (I'm now 51). But where? I, too, HATE heat and humidity.

One of my older sisters moved to Chandler, AZ (outside of Phoenix) and LOVES it. I could never take that kind of heat but thought of moving to areas in the mountains like Prescott (90 minute drive from Phoenix) where they have four seasons and occasional snow.

A lot of Marylanders are retiring in next door Pennsylvania as it has a much lower cost of living.

Hopefully my house will be paid off in around 5 years and I'll have a much better handle on what I can afford. I even thought about moving to a condo in my same little town of Takoma Park but the condo fees are outrageous! For those monthly fees, I could hire someone to help me take care of my yard and even clean inside once a month!

While I've been lucky to be in the same home for over thirty years, it snows here close to half the year if you count a non-spring that bursts into high mountain summer about mid-June.

My metaphorical move has been from Working to Retirement, cetainly a far different country. My whole life changed much more radically than I'd imagined. Even my close work friends have drifted apart as many now leave for the winter. It does take hurling oneself into new avenues--some pan out and you make new acquaintances, others don't.

Be willing to try new activities, and I believe it helps to ASK the universe/Source/whatever you call it, to lead you to those people and activities you can help and to those who can help you. I'd recommend being patient and giving new things a chance--I took a drawing class, and a painting class, and a ceramics class before I realized that, while they were fun, they were keeping me tied to a 16-week semester schedule. I've probably read a quarter of the books in our library, but that wasn't keeping me moving enough.

Hopefully Lee can check out the fitness centers or the Y in her prospective new neighborhoods. And by now some of you readers will recognize my hearty endorsement of volunteering at your local animal shelter: there I found not only like-minded souls, but loving future pets one can nurture. And every day, there are as many interesting characters and situations as I encountered as a community college counselor/educator for close to thirty years!

As this rotten economy grounds many of us, the decisions to stay or move are crucial, but with love and luck we can make the best of it. Thank goodness for TGB that we can consider these things together!

What a good discussion topic!
As you say, it is harder to meet new people and get into things if you are not working. For young people, a good tip is to try to get to the place you want to retire while you are still in your 50's and work at home or can find work easily. My husband is a consultant and I'm a teacher, so this was the ideal plan for us.
We bought our house in Hawaii in 1994, came over permanently in 1996, and have never regretted our move. I retired three years ago, but my husband is still working.
Friends of ours are making a similar transition. They have decided to rent for a few months and see how they like living here. They are somewhat older than we were when we made our move, but they have been cautious in their investments and could probably set themselves up very nicely here.

What a great (and timely for me) topic! At 62, retired with my youngest away at college, I thought it was me - unable to keep up the house, hating the cold weather so much, my friends busy. After reading the article and the posts here, I think I need to visit some areas I'm interested in - North Carolina, Florida, Costa Rica even - and see what "speaks" to me. And get this place ready to sell before it falls apart (or I do, trying to keep it up).

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. During WWII my Dad worked as a maintenance specialist for an oil pipeline, which means he has a War Emergency job and was exempt from going back in to the Marines -- he had to help keep the oil flowing.
As a consequenece we moved all over Ohio ... from my hometown of Mannington, WV, we moved to Middletown, Lebanon, Circleville and Columbus, Ohio. I went to 5 schools in 5 years. I liked it; made lots of friends and saw lots of different places. Thought it was a great adventure!
Since then, I have always had a bit of a case of itchy feet -- what my Mom called a "fiddle foot" (one that cannot hold still when I hear the music - internally or externally). And the music of adventure has always been with me.
My Mom said that my resume looked like a resume for a Gypsy camp!
At 74 I still love to roam and discover new places. Am always willing to pick up and move on whenever and wherever I can.
Anyone want to buy a large mobile home in a senior park in Vista, CA. at a great price? It's always for sale.

I really enjoyed reading that, Ronni. You have a gift for stating things in logical order and making it clear as well as interesting.

We need to move out of our big home and get into something smaller and, hopefully, less costly. I am ready to start that process, but I can't seem to light a fire under my husband. Meanwhile, we deal almost weekly with maintenance issues, most of them expensive. I would not relocate; I'd stay in this area since all three of my children are within 90 miles of us.

I questioned your move to Maine at the time; mindful of the snow and ice you'd have to deal with there. I wish you had made the decision to go to the west coast back then, but maybe you had to learn something from that process.

How wonderful! I came over here from Linda's blog (A Slower Pace) to find out what's what. I moved from my chosen home in Boulder, CO in 2008 after I retired from my job of three decades.

I had to wait until I turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare in order to afford to have insurance. Hubby and I went to the west coast in 2006 to scope out the cities. We ended up moving to Bellingham, WA, without a friend or family member in sight.

It's been the best thing I've ever done, and I've got a full life (partly because of the blogosphere) and many friends who feel like family already, after only three years. We still rent so we don't have to be tied to anything, and we have just enough income with SS and annuities.

Before my husband retired, we'd think about different states to retire to. We'd drive there and talk and go around and around. Nothing REALLY spoke to us. We'd drive around closer to our home getting closer and closer. While this was going on, our 3 kids got married, started having kids and lived quite near us. Finally, the light bulb illumed and we realized we were where we wanted to be! At that time we were in a little house and could afford a larger one. We mover 10 minutes away and helped our one son with buying our house and helped another son purchase his house. Now we have our daughter and family 40 min. away, and both sons with families 10 min. away. And 10 super grandkids. Perfect, until we also will want to downsize. At least we know where! The job of doing it is another matter.

Possumlady and I are definitely kindred spirits.

My husband and I have lived in this house for 45 years,raised 4 children here,and really have no desire to move.

But,we are old now and the maintenance on the lawn and outside of the house are beyond us now.

At one time, a few years ago, we considered a Condo and the place we liked that had plenty of room for our activities also had a maintenance fee of $400.00-$500.00 a month.

We thought about that for awhile and finally came to the conclusion that we should stay in our house and PRETEND it was a Condo.

So what we do now is put that maintence fee that we would be paying at the Condo in a seperate fund to pay someone to cut the grass,shovel the snow,paint the outside,fix the roof.

That way we can stay right here and have all of the work that neither of us can do done by workman who are delighted to make the money.

Hey, Ronni, thanks for posting this. My back is killing me today after mowing the lawn (first time this spring) and digging up 53 dandelions. I really like Nancy's idea of just treating your place as if it were a condo and hiring younger workers to do the heavy lifting.

Annie B., you must be my twin soul, for you are where I am right now. I need to sell my home, too, before any more plaster cracks.

I still have a job (that I don't like much anymore) that allows me to have medical insurance (still a tad too young for Medicare) but having done some hard thinking have decided I am not in any way trapped. If anything, I'm in awe of all my choices. But realistically, I need to make a good choice now, as Darlene points out, because I don't want to be 80 and still moving house.

Like Ronni I was a New Yorker - upper west side. My job grew less and less satisfying and what little view I had was taken away by a new high rise that stole all my sky. I mulled nice places like North Carolina but, almost on impulse, almost exactly 2 years ago, at age 70, moved to Cape Cod -- not entirely new to me as my younger daughter has lived her for 25 years and I'd visited often.

Culture shock hit me: had to have a car for the first time in 25 years, didn't know anyone my own age. Like Ronni I like my own company. Although daughter was always ready to help she has a busy life and I wanted my own life. By fall I discovered a big adult ed "academy" associated with the community college; that has helped enormously. I've met people who are active, thinking, curious and fun. I've joined a quilt guild which is an important hobby and I have time to write things I had long planned to write. I miss museums and fine music but there are art movies and some concerts. These things are important. It's a beautiful place, my apartment is nicer and larger, I like driving, but not the rising price of gas, and I have lots of SKY, birds, trees, flowers. It was a good choice.

This discussion is the greatest! Loved reading what everyone had to say. Thanks to all for speaking so honestly. Carmen

Like many readers, I changed residences frequently in my 20s and early 30s. In 1969 I relocated to the Seattle area, which is a pretty nice place to live if you can deal with the traffic. (I commute to work only once a week now, which makes it easier to overlook.)

I married a native Northwesterner, so even if I wanted and could afford to return to my native California Bay Area (I still miss the weather big time!), that's not in the cards. My husband loves Seattle's cool temps and rain! We bought our current 2BR townhouse 16 years ago and hope to go the distance here, although we recognize that stairs may become an issue eventually.

I don't look forward to moving when/if we must. We've tried to keep the junk factor under control although I'm sure we have more than we should. I don't know how I'd adjust to a completely different part of the country, but I do know there are animal shelters everywhere, and I don't think I'd have any problem finding fellow cat-people.

I have often thought of moving to another country when I retire-or before if I can swing it. The only drawback-a big one-is leaving grandkids and children behind.
My mother, at age 78 had a stroke while on a family vacation on the east coast. She lived on the west coast. My sister and I packed and moved all of her things to get them to the east coast so that she could live near our other sister. Two years later, our sister died suddenly. My mom felt that she was a burden to my brother-in-law, so last fall we moved her from the east coast to the midwest. She has had some tough adjustments, but seems to be doing okay now. We hope her health is stabilized, and that she will find friends. She has already moved from an independent apartment to an assisted living since she came here in the fall. Too much too fast for anyone.

Retired to Crescent City Ca before I knew of the extreme earthquake faultline 50 miles off shore. The huge tsnuamis in several places,latest images from Japan, have unnerved me. Many here are making deals with God or pretending it can't happen here! I will abandon my modest mobilehome & flee inland. Am 70 & tired too, but not enough to swirl around in cold water in debris. Who knew????

Ronni, thank you so much for responding in detail to Lee's question. It is posts like this one and the wonderful dialog that has ensued that makes your blog so special. You'll have to look back at this the next time someone over-reacts or becomes crotchety.

I moved constantly up until my mid thirties. Different countries, different languages, different cultures... moving makes you strain your mind. It also makes you strain your social skills, which is a good thing to do with age. Yet, in my experience, moving to a new home has little to do with losing friends or providing new opportunities for finding friends. New friends come into our lives through gracious flukes or quiet deliverance and not through a change of address.

I have moved about 14 times since college, mostly up and down the east coast. Last move was 7 years ago and I am happy staying put. Have been in Boston since 1998.

Ronni: glad to read that you practice tai chi. I love it! It's great for health, meditation, balance and flexibility. I am 56 and started tai chi about 11 years ago: classical yang form. I wonder how many other TGB readers practice tai chi.

I have moved at least 100 times in my life. So many that it is impossible for me to have an accurate record of the various addresses in five states. Since my childhood was based on change, making friends and moving and making new friends was "normal" for me.

When hubby and I decided to move from southern CA so we could live on our social security and not work, we investigated many places online for the things that mattered to us. Drought, traffic, crime, cost of living, etc. We had a friend who had moved to Nebraska six months before we did who offered us a place to come to and stay till we found a place, so that is what we did.
It only took a few days to find a place to rent (never want to own again). We have since moved from that place to a place in a smaller town for even less rent.

The decision to move to this state was the best one for us for many reasons, one being the wonderful people here. We were definitely ready to live a quieter, calmer life.

We exercise to DVDs, Qigong, Yoga, aerobic. We ride bikes on the safe streets with very little traffic.

I am 65 now and if there are any more moves ahead for me, I only hope it will be because I will be going to an even better place if that would be possible.

I really enjoyed this subject and all the comments on this post.

Good column and good comments. Thanks, all.

These are such great posts, thanks Ronni. Moving,blah! I went to 14 different schools 1st through high school. I married a man who liked to move. I finally talked him into settling so the kids could go to school with their friends. I lived there until until 1999 when I looked around my 'burb and wondered how someone who grew up in a big city or totally in the sticks had ended up here in neither, alone in a house big enough for many people.

I didn't think it out really, I just sort of went. My house sold in 3 days and I bought a house in Walla Walla which I planned on renting out. As I was packing to move my father became very ill. I took medical leave to care for him. He did recover.

My sons finished packing up my house and took everything to Walla Walla and put in in storage for me. I was so stressed I arrived at Dad's with my computer, papers, and underwear, and lots of pantyhose. My clothes got left with a friend in yet another city. After Dad was stable I decided to retire early and I moved into my home in WW, found a job, retired later.

I still get homesick for the "wet-side," the big city, and my sisters. After 11 years here the yard is getting away from me and I wonder if there's another move afoot for me. I am paring down and part of me thinks finding an "elder" home for myself might be smart; I'm not feeling like I want to do it. I liked the idea of pretending the house is a condo and just getting gardening and lawn help.

The last kid went to college and the dog died We sold the big house and rented nearby for 2 years while we traveled around the US looking for a place for our next step.

Classes, the gym, political/community volunteering are the best ways to get involved when you don't have work or kids or religious affiliation to bring you within reach of enough people from whom you can choose a friend. It is lonely at first, no doubt about it, no matter how much you like your own company.

The adventure is worth the risk, though at this stage we bought a house in which we could age gracefully in place. Getting shot wasn't part of the plan, but it allowed us to see that, with some help around the house, we can age gracefully in place in a town that we love.

We are lucky, indeed, to have the comfort of that knowledge.

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