Putting Down New Roots by Robin Trimingham
Once upon a time in my snowy homeland of Toronto, I dreamed of a townhouse in south Florida. To me Florida had it all – wide roads, big malls, senior’s discounts, reasonably priced real estate, modern hospitals, palm trees and sunshine. Best of all, it was in the continental United States – the safest, cleanest, most prosperous English speaking country on the planet.
That was 1985.
Today the Florida that I read of in the news is a place I barely recognize – a land where some of the country’s most expensive real estate is at the mercy of global warming, there are vacant store fronts, doctor shortages and lockdowns at the mall. They still have the weather, but over 27% of the residents speak a language other than English, and the percentage of non-English speakers in Miami is even higher.
At the same time that I was falling in love with Florida, Colombia was the home of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel practically the most dangerous place in the Western hemisphere. Rocked by volcanic eruptions, car bombs, and hit quads it was a total no-go zone for even the toughest adventurers, let alone retirees.
Funny thing though – times change. Today the drug cartel has moved on and Colombia is gaining a reputation as an attractive affordable retirement destination with a modern airport, cheap medical care, modern shopping malls and affordable housing.
I am not saying I would live there, or that anyone reading this should consider it instead of Florida; but I am saying that the list of most “livable” retirement destinations is definitely changing and it is more important than ever to do your homework before making a move (especially if you hope it is going to be a permanent one).
It is also important to realize that, as important as it is to make a comprehensive long range retirement plan, it is equally important to review, update and amend that plan on a regular basis. Just because a destination got “rave reviews” on one retirement website does not mean you should start packing your bags. Important considerations include: the cost of living, availability of essential services in a language you can speak, existing programs and activities for seniors, quality of public transportation, ease of access on foot, immigration requirements, cost and availability of healthcare, and what services are available once you are finally too old or too unwell to care for yourself.
Whatever your list of requirements and priorities, it is very important to make at least a couple of visits to your chosen nirvana before moving permanently – stay at least a month if you possibly can so that you can begin to feel what it would be like to live there full time.
Some of you reading this will have done all of this and made your move – please comment and let us know where you have gone, how you decided and what other things people should consider before making a retirement move.
By Robin Trimingham