The Language of Memory and Forgetting

Ageing in Place – Or Maybe Not

In every survey taken over many years, about 90 percent of old people say they want to age in place – that is, stay in the home where they are now and have lived for many years.

In addition, it is almost gospel among the leading authorities, organizations and other experts in the ageing community that when health allows, remaining in one's home in old age is the better choice. It has certainly been my mantra in these pages over many years and I generally believe it.

Although I live in a NORC (naturally occurring retirement community), that was a mistake. When I bought my condo, I didn't know the population here is about 85 percent old people and although I can't afford to move again, I have believed over these five years that given the choice, I would prefer living in a mixed-age neighborhood.

Now, a professor at the University of Florida, Stephen M. Golant, who is a gerontologist and social geographer comes along with with some interesting arguments for elders living in what he calls “age homogeneous residential enclaves.” He is speaking, he says, about

”the 93% of Americans age 65 and older who live in ordinary homes and apartments, and not in highly age-segregated long-term care options, such as assisted living properties, board and care, continuing care retirement communities or nursing homes.”

We old folks, Golant's 93 percent, don't move much but when we do, he says, we often avoid living near young people.

”The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 allows certain housing providers to discriminate against families with children. Consequently, significant numbers of older people can move to these 'age-qualified' places that purposely exclude younger residents...

“Others may opt to move to 'age-targeted' subdivisions (many gated) and high-rise condominiums that developers predominantly market to aging consumers who prefer adult neighbors. Close to 25% of age-55-and-older households in the US occupy these types of planned residential settings.

“Finally, another smaller group of relocating elders transition to low-rent senior apartment buildings made possible by various federally and state-funded housing programs. They move to seek relief from the intolerably high housing costs of their previous residences.”

Golant also tells us that only two percent of elder homeowners and 12 percent of elder renters move each year so we are not talking about a large migration. But I am reminded that when we here have discussed housing, the preponderance of opinion is that readers want to live in mixed age areas and not be “stuck” with all those old people, as they often put it.

Golant argues that because throughout our lives we congregate mostly with people in similar stages of life, there is no reason not to do so in old age. In fact, he says, old people are happier with their own age group:

”...studies show that when older people reside with others their age, they have more fulfilled and enjoyable lives. They do not feel stigmatized when they practice retirement-oriented lifestyles.

“Even the most introverted or socially inactive older adults feel less alone and isolated when surrounded with friendly, sympathetic, and helpful neighbors with shared lifestyles, experiences, and values – and yes, who offer them opportunities for intimacy and an active sex life.”

Golant also has an answer for those who believe everyone benefits from communities where old people function as caregivers and nurturers of youth while the young learn respect for their elders:

”In question,” he writes “is whether these enriched social outcomes merely represent idealized visions of our pasts.

“A less generous interpretation for why critics oppose these congregations of old is that they make the problems faced by an aging population more visible and thus harder to ignore.”

And one more thing. Golant points out that it is much easier for home healthcare workers, nurses and other aides to serve more people when they are not traveling over entire cities or wide rural areas to reach their clients. And

”...how much easier it is for a building management or homeowners’ association to justify the purchasing of a van to serve the transportation needs of their older residents or to establish an on-site clinic to address their health needs.

“Consider also the challenges confronted by older people seeking good information about where to get help and assistance.

“Even in our internet age, they still mostly rely on word of mouth communications from trusted individuals. It becomes more likely that these knowledgeable individuals will be living next to them.”

Although Galant supports the Villages Movement for many of the above reasons, he gets it wrong in missing the important intergenerational aspect but that is not anywhere near enough reason to dismiss his work on age-homogeneous living for elders and the suggestion that it can help prolong independent living.

He is not saying that we should all rush off to join a NORC or 55-plus community. What we should do - those who, like me, have slighted such living arrangements - is to recognize them as viable alternatives and welcome them onto the list of choices we have as we grow old.

Much of Golant's article on this is taken from his book, Aging in the Right Place that I would like to read but it's too pricey for my book budget right now.

Nevertheless, the online article at The Conversation, where you will find more detail, is persuasive and worth a read.


I'd prefer to live in a stimulating community of mixed ages, but it's also hoped that I would not regularly be confronting ageist attitudes and prejudices, or being targeted for my vulnerabilities.

When we moved to our present neighborhood and I saw that a young family was living next door, I knew immediately this would present problems. (Mostly the people on our street are older, with a mix of people in their 50s and 60s and many in their 80s. The people in their 80s have lived here all their lives.)

All was fine with the young family until they decided to put in a swimming pool. Now we have to endure screaming and yelling whenever the kids are in the pool. I would much prefer neighbors our age who are more considerate. The neighbors on the other side are in their 60s, as we are, and love gardening, as we do. The young family next door allows weeds to grow, and they rarely mow their lawn. (One day this summer the wife complained to the husband that their yard looked like it was in a "fricking trailer park". A bit of clean-up ensued.)

I suppose young and old could live together pleasantly if they were considerate of each other's needs. But when the family is in the pool, we are forced to retreat indoors to shut the windows and we cannot sit in our pleasant garden. Fortunately, we rent this house, and if it gets too miserable, we can move any time.

We have lived in our house for 35 years and so have seen young grow old, move on, and younger move in and grow up. Right now the neighborhood is a mix of young, middle age, and three of us households with older residents. I like seeing a variety of people coming and going on our street.

As for growing older here, though, I wonder what would happen if we could no longer drive as we are far from grocery stores and medical facilities. The ability to drive will determine where we go next.

I share a similar problem with Yvonne - the inconsiderate younger neighbors. Although we had planned to age in this place, and I love what we've done to this house - in what used to be a decent mixed-race community of policemen & women, fire & emt crews, and 30-50 something corporate office workers -the neighborhood has gone to hell with illegal immigrants. Tiny 2 bedroom houses ment for small families are now divided into Rooms-for-Rent flop houses, lawns are full with cars, kids scream in the street long after dark on school nights, loud cars blasting booming music wake us up at 5AM on the weekdays and 2AM on the weekends, on and on. Sadly, we bought this place 20 years ago, and still have a mortgage. The business I own is based on providing pet care in a 15-mile radius of my home, so I'm tied here by that also. I live in the suburbs of DC, so the majority of housing is now out of our financial reach.

I would love to hear from other elders that planned to age in place, then found it necessary to move, for reasons other than a required assisted-living situation. I do believe the noise here is affecting my health, and like Yvonne, I have given up spending time with my cats on my lovely porch, and other outdoor garden-and yard activities.

I have appreciated comments from other readers about their regrets moving into planned retirement communities, and would also like to hear why the decision to live with other elders turned out to be the wrong move for them.

I'm trying to find some joy in the opportunities that may await me, rather than dwell on a situation I cannot change except by escaping it..

It is all about balance.. Elders need to be near services and cultural stimulation and interests that reflect their life style. Be we also need to be in the heart of mixed age groups to be challenged each and every day.

Wow, momcat. Our situation isn't as bad as yours. The people with the kids next door are the only ones on the street who have this low-rent attitude, and interestingly they are both middle-class teachers.

Neighborhoods go up and down all the time. Ours is in fact going up, as the modest '50s bungalows on large lots are replaced with $1-million dream homes, mostly being built for affluent 50-plus people.

We are in Ontario, Canada, which is in the midst of a crazy housing bubble fueled by low interest rates. Our street is, in fact, becoming a millionaire's row, as the 80-year-olds who have lived in their modest homes all their lives move away or die, and their houses are replaced with extravagant monstrosities.

When we downsized, we decided to rent one of the modest '50s bungalows, as it is cheaper to live here renting, rather than buying. Our house is "worth" half a million as a tear-down. That's how crazy the situation is here!

at 87 + I am always amazed at the 'elders' among us who want everything to remain exactly the
same! Nothing does! My house is the same one I bought when I was 28, married with two toddlers.
Now I am widowed for several years and have given my house to my two daughters. Both are now practically senior citizens themselves (I find that incredible). Neither has children. One is a widow
and the other newly married. Both have very busy careers. I live with them. Fortunately we all get along. The houses in the neighborhood have changed--some rather dramatically. Swimming pools which I am always invited to swim in and many small and teenage children, all who call me "Nana".
How lucky can you get? I love children--even the naughty ones--I don't have to discipline them!
I have always loved 'people'--all kinds, all shapes, all ages. I'm very sorry if this sounds rather me, me, me but it's true. I have always taken the saying "different strokes for different folks" to heart.
Remember it's not better, it's not worse it's just DIFFERENT! Good luck and happy landings to all of you.

Renting is relative. I've been blessed to be able to complete all the payments on my mortgage. Now, I find, with real estate taxes, that I am basically renting from local government. This "monthly rent" is higher than any rents I experienced as an actual tenant in earlier years...and rising faster. This will have an important effect on where I can ultimately afford to live.

Yvonne, Nashville, Tennessee has the same crazy situation. It is a question of where can you afford to move to for most elderly. Some can't afford to move because there is no affordable place to go.

I moved in 2008 to a 55+ community when I was being annoyed by the roar of motorcycles, firecrackers and booming basses from entertainment venues a few miles away, and had the yearly threat of a flood.

The neighborhood you and momcat describe aptly fits where I lived in a 1948 2 bedroom home.

The 55+ community fits my need for a quieter atmosphere at this time, but the building of monstrosities is moving our way and the crowding of the population that brings traffic headaches makes the time it will remain peaceful one of conjecture. But, where would I go, interest rates are not my concern, i would not purchase without being able to buy outright and the housing I could afford is long gone.

The financial pitfalls of living in a 55+ community are related to the age of the community. Infrastructure needs drives the fees. My community was built in 1984, and built with streets that are ours/not the city (and who knew until they moved in and went to a homeowner's meeting?) I bought outright, at a time the fee was nominal, but it has been increased three years in a row and could become untenable with all costs rising.

I would advise anyone considering moving into this type community to do your homework. Get copies of the original property deed and formation of the builder's statements of what is being formed by the building of the community. There are rules and regulations set early that evidently are set in stone. Dealing with a homeowner's association board of directors and a management company is a learning experience. There are power struggles and the power is most often on the side of the directors.

I guess the uncomfortable part is that you can, without any intent to do so, get into squabbles that you don't expect. For me it is a perhaps a stuck-in-place situation because of finances and it may be a future of not being able to afford to live here because of the fees.

I do not mean to say there isn't pleasantness, there is. There are people of quality and with very interesting experiences in my community whom I enjoy knowing. It is peaceful. It is more akin to my childhood in a midwestern suburb of Chicago than the neighborhood I lived prior to this.
We have a mix of 1st and 2nd generation Americans to go along with those who have lost sight of their generations place in the lineup.

I just sold my house and will move into a condo where ages are pretty mixed. Leaving my current home is more about being closer to town and on a public transportation route. It is just too hard to live alone and be out in the country in a big house with a big yard. The nostalgia factor has definitely worn off for me.

I'd love to move to 55+ community that's also away from the general population, like a small town. However, our home is in a city and it's not very likely I'll move anytime soon. I'm attached to the house. My neighborhood is nice, but I also have a next-door neighbor with a pool and all summer long there are loud parties going on with kids and grand kids and their friends hanging out till late. At least it probably keeps the burglars away. But I'm also tired of young impatient drivers, and boisterous young people at stores and restaurants. I think they should enjoy being young and have lots of loud fun. I just don't want to be around.

We lived for many years in a planned community surrounded by a golf course. Outside maintenance and improvements and resident conduct outside the units was strictly controlled by a homeowners association. Although the majority of residents were 50 or older, there was some mix of age groups. What S C Jones said about similar communities is right on, in our experience.

When the opportunity arrived, we made a long move to be near our son. It is pleasant to be free of the problems inherent in dealing with homeowners associations, but now we have a rural home to maintain. So far we are dealing with that comfortably by judicious hiring of some help and being careful not to take onstrenuous work ourselves.

All that said, I believe the more important factor in deciding where elders live is that they make the least negative impact on others, especially family, as possible. Thus, If necessary I would not hesitate to move to an apartment, room, assisted living facility, or anywhere else if that appeared necessary to keep from impinging on the quality of my son's life.

My living in an RV full time fits my lifestyle for now and is a perfect situation for me as I love to travel and meet other people of ALL ages. It also gives me the opportunity to visit my five adult children and their families without having to be on their schedules or feel like I am intruding in any way. as I have my bed and home with me to retire to whenever I want.. I am however always keeping in mind that this works for me now at age 76 but how will this work in a few more years?

Last winter, I decided to rent in an "over 55" community to see if this would be the lifestyle I would want when I give up my RVing.. I was lucky to get a sublet for just four months and it turned out to be a very long four months. I counted the days until I could leave and get back into my RV and travel to places I have never been.

Being in an older community, for that four months, made me feel old especially when most of the social activities seemed to cater to retired couples and I was not a couple so I felt limited to basically playing cards, doing needlework, and doing lunch or a bus tour. I know many widows and single women enjoy this type of living and I think, if so, that is great, but I found myself totally unstimulated, for lack of a better word..

My lifestyle is not for everyone, especially a single mature woman, but because of my adventurous and somewhat daring nature, I tend to think I can do this forever as I love it that much. I cringe to think I might have to be around just old people, at some point in my life, simply because I will probably not, at some time, be in the shape I am today..

Yes, I tend to forget I am definitely one of these "old people," and I had better put a plan in place, now while I can or others will be making my decision for me. For now, my plan is to eventually move into a condo that appeals to mixed ages and only time will tell if that will be a choice I will be afforded.

One important thing for us is having a bus stop five minutes from our house. We have cars, but are thinking ahead to when we may not be driving.

Our house is in a desirable mixed age area, with big lots, so when smaller bungalows are sold, many are replaced by huge Mac dee giants.

There are pools around us, yet our neighbours are considerate and tidy. Some of our original neighbours divorced and moved on.

We will be getting some new neighbours soon, and we can't wait to see who moves in.

Our criteria is this: Be tidy, be friendly, be from anywhere in the world, be respectful of noise by laws. Need a hand, we're here.

One of our neighbours used to tell me he never saw or heard a peep from us.

We are that quiet.

First..I am like Judy.. I don't sew, do crafts, cook or any of the so called normal old women things. I might jump on the community bus to go to a sports event, casino or out to lunch.

We found the perfect 2 bedroom, plus sunroom house in quiet neighborhood. Less than mile from major medical center. Several blocks of all brick duplexes and single family homes. Most residents are retired, but not all. The sweetest couple live next door.. 2 adorable kids. People behind us have swimming pool, behind one of those ugly wood fences. I hear the fun, but it's never a problem.

We have arranged for monthly housecleaning, lawn service. Service people numbers are handy if needed.

I rarely leave the house, but the Mr. is out and about almost daily. The neighbors all lookout for each other...neighborhood watch. Everyone is really friendly.

My husband is 80 as of Friday.. Golly that is hard to believe. We have discussed the "what ifs". I'm hoping they would happen for many years.

Correction... I hope our "what if" moments don't happen for many years.

I could claim a senior moment or lifelong dyslexia, but honestly it was caused by this exciting baseball game.

Last year we sold our small bungalow, in a charming (but fast-growing) little town on the outskirts of a big city, and moved into a brand new condo that's right on the big city's subway line. So far, no regrets. Most of the other owners are much younger than we are, which means we get to hear children playing in the central courtyard, and the occasional party going on in other suites. That doesn't bother me. I like hearing the sounds of happy people.

My husband's main reason for wanting the move was not having to cut the grass, deal with weeds, or shovel snow. Paying someone to come to the house to do all that would have been painful for him, but he likes the idea that now he doesn't have to!

Me, I was more concerned about setting up a lifestyle that we could sustain without a car.

Subway access means that, while, yes, a car is still nice to have sometimes, when the time comes we'll be able to get along perfectly well without it. There's a major shopping mall right across the street, a public library and a 24-hour grocery store within short walking distance, or if the weather's bad, an even better grocery store a few stops away on the subway, We can get downtown easily. Our two children's families both live close to the subway, too, so we don't have to drive to visit back and forth.

I don't know how we'll like it as we get older. Probably there are situations we haven't thought of that will turn out to be problems... life's like that. But we've done the best we can. For now, it's working out all right.

Interesting topic and comments! Two years ago we sold our condo in a complex containing mostly working professionals and moved to a "55+" manufactured home community. Our motivation was to eliminate stairs and live in a one-story home as we continued to age, also to wave goodbye to our former steep driveway that could be very icy in the winter. Wouldn't you know it: the ensuing two winters have been extremely mild! Our condo neighbors were terrific, and I miss them.

The move has been a mixed bag. On the plus side I'm not a kid-oriented person (never have been) and we rarely have to deal with kids (I'd have a real problem with a situation like momcat's). Although we read the lot lease and other paperwork carefully before purchasing our home, the major differences in governance and management between condos and manufactured home communities weren't evident until we moved in and experienced residency up close and personal.

I'm not sure we'd do it again, but it is what it is. Even if we wanted to move, we couldn't afford it. Buying another condo in our pricey Pacific Northwest area isn't a consideration; rents, which are already beyond ridiculous, just keep on rising. For the time being, our home is affordable--who knows in the next 5 years? My husband is content, and I can be as involved in activities as I want to be so, all in all, one could say it was a reasonable housing choice.

Aging in place is all about support and renovation. Those older folks who have the good fortune to be surrounded by neighbors, friends and relatives and have modified their homes to sustain a more challenging lifestyle, are very lucky. Unfortunately, for many of us whose relatives live far away, whose friends have all but passed on, or who live in big city, rent controlled apartments, we have no such structure. While I would have loved to be able to remain in my spacious, 2 bedroom, rent-controlled NYC apartment, my disabilities made it impossible. Even If I were allowed to do necessary renovations to my apartment, I would still be mostly alone and isolated. Yes, there is much to be said for aging in place, but you have to be physically, mentally and financially fit to do so.

I will be moving to a large active CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) in the summer, 2016. I am thrilled to be leaving the responsibilities of a home to be ‘aging in a better place’. One of the problems with aging in place is expecting things to stay ‘in place’. Alas, as previous columns have described, friends and family move or die and our abilities diminish. I appreciate that the better communities can be too expensive for many elders but I have a friend who is very happy in her subsidized senior housing.

Great discussion. We are aging in San Francisco in one of the hottest real estate markets anywhere in a house we'll own outright very soon. We try to envision aging in place, but the neighborhood around us is rising so fast that it's tough to imagine what it will look like. The value in this house is just as a tear-down, I think, but it's highly inflated.

Where would we go? No idea. My Erudite Partner has done a number of speaking gigs at very nice assisted living places recently. The audiences were some of her best: serious, thoughtful, concerned. But neither of us come away wanting to live such a place.

If we can afford it, in terms of services and choices re community, cities seem the right place. But I so long to just be able to go outside ...

CCRCs can be a great choice for many older people especially looking ahead to a time when they may need more help, but in my experience their availability is pretty limited. I did a fair amount of research online and visited a few places in the years before we moved to our current 55+ community. What I found is that there aren't a lot of continuing care options out there unless you're (1) quite well-off or (2) eligible for subsidized senior housing. We are neither, and I suspect that a significant percentage of retirees may be in a similar situation.

At one lovely new CCRC we visited early in our search the representative told us frankly, "I'm sorry, but you don't have enough money to live in a place like this." We were taken aback at the time, but she was right: nearly $1 million is definitely more than we had! It's probably more than many retirees from careers in the nonprofit sector have.

The manufactured home we ended up with is neither new nor lovely and offers no services. However, after needed renovations, it's comfortable. It's also paid for, except for lot rent which goes up every year along with utilities--whether or not there's a Social Security COLA. If we should become too disabled to fend for ourselves with limited in-home help, I'm not sure what the next move would be.

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