Most of us are going to spend our retirement where we spent our working lives -- in suburbia.
That's why John McIlwain, senior resident fellow for the think tank Urban Land Institute, believes that all of us suburbanites who are focused on retirement planning should consider these steps to make where we live more retirement-friendly.
- Push for sidewalks. Without sidewalks, a community isn't walkable and having to drive everywhere will limit us as we age.
- Advocate up-to-date public transportation. Not just buses that run the same routes every day. What we really want is readily available transit to the places we need to go. That can include golf cart and tricycle routes as well as cars and vans that come when called.
- Lobby for more commercial zoning. Neighborhood shops and medical care can make life much simpler.
- Open your mind to multifamily housing. If your neighborhood allows two-family units, you can rent out the parts of that big, old house that you don't need. This zoning can also pave the way for a caregiver to move in.
- Make the senior/community center relevant. Today's over-60s aren't terribly interested in shuffleboard. The programming at recreation centers should change to reflect that, and we should be aware and involved in making that change.
- Make the neighborhood age-friendly. Add benches (designed to discourage the homeless from sleeping there). Increase the timing of walk signs to give people more time to get across the street. Add a median to wide streets so walkers only have to go halfway.
- Ban the word "senior." We're not "seniors," we're just older than we used to be. Make municipal communications reflect that.
The most expensive part of this is finding money to help people maintain their aging homes, says McIlwain. "Homes deteriorate faster with older people in them. It is something that the whole community needs to watch out for. You don't want roofs to leak, and you want the grass to be cut," he says.
Figuring out how to pay for that could be the biggest challenge to staying put.