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real estateI found a place in a 55 communities in phoenix az of nearly 3,000 single-family, full-sized homes with medium-sized yards near where my parents retired. We chose the area partly because my parents were nearby and we could offer to help, but also because it is beautiful. It’s also close enough to quality medical facilities — better than some of the wonderful, picturesque places we considered that were hours Rom civilization. It’s also nice that the jobless rate is very low, so it’s even possible to find work at my age, 60. A sizable minority of people in our community, including myself and my wife, work at least part-time.

We watched my parents move to a 55+ community when they retired 20 years ago — they thrived. It really IS nice to live within a group of people you are close to in age, but also close enough to a larger community so you can get out and mingle if you want. There are many common values, and we all shared similar things as we grew up.

The community has a couple of hundred smaller condo/apartment units available that offer independent or assisted-living options for older seniors, but it’s not the kind of place where you automatically “move up” as you age and need assistance — such places exist, but this is really an “independent” community.

We were able to buy our home at the bottom of the market during the last recession, and I spent the better part of a year adding 450 square feet to the house during a major remodeling project. I will not get into my intimate financial details, but moving in here wasn’t much different than any other move. You sell one house, buy another and generate income from retirement accounts, pensions, and ongoing employment. We’ll draw social security and benefit from medicare the minute we can.

Medical insurance is simply outrageous and is, by far, our largest expense. It’s more per month than our mortgage, food, and utilities, combined. We actually entertained moving to Canada to get cheap health care, but didn’t have quite enough assets to make the move legally.

real estateThe homeowner’s association is a pain in the butt. It can restrict your gardening and exterior improvements, but offer a number of activities and maintains a gym, library, etc. There are many active volunteer groups. There are also three golf courses (I don’t golf). The neighborhoods are clean, there are plenty of places to walk and bicycle, and crime is incredibly low. I don’t participate in many of the group activities, but do take advantage of access to the gym, sauna, and swimming pool that’s included with the dues. My wife and I will partake in some group activities as we get older.

The community is located in an area that is beautiful, it is less than a 45-minute drive to the ocean, and a bit over an hour from San Francisco. The community offers an incredible number of restaurants and we are in the middle of the wine country, so there are probably 100 wineries to visit if you drink. When I go, I am the designated driver since I don’t drink.

At 60, I am on the extreme young end of the age spectrum here. There are many, many people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, who are active, out and about, walking and participating in the events offered. While there are a few cranky old farts, most people are friendly and it’s relatively easy to make friends.