"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Going Home

     I've moved to a strange place, in a way. B and I come from the New York suburbs. When we were kids, back in the 1970s, it seemed that everyone left home as soon as they could and headed somewhere else -- Boston or Washington or at least New York City. B and I are almost unusual in that, though we both did live in New York City for a while, we moved back to the suburbs.

     Some 30 or 35 years later our kids and their friends all graduated from high school and also went off somewhere else -- first to college, then to look for opportunities in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, California, or somewhere in between. Hardly anyone stayed in their suburban hometown.

     And now, most of us parents, when we get ready to retire, start looking around for a place to relocate -- Florida, the Carolinas, sometimes Arizona, Oregon or Washington, or even overseas.

     When B and I decided to retire to Pennsylvania, I thought: Who retires to Pennsylvania?!? I even wondered if we'd ever meet any retired people. I figured they'd all left and gone to the Sunbelt.

     Boy, was I wrong. There are retired folk all over the place in Pennsylvania -- as well as the resources to cater to them. My town has a senior center. It has a Center for Learning in Retirement at the local university. There are plenty of cultural events catering to older people -- an independent movie theater, lots of mid-level restaurants, lots of churches, flower shows, a museum, an arts fair, a chapter of the senior women's social group Encore. And there's a hospital much larger than you'd expect for a town our size, along with literally hundreds of doctors doing a land-office business in colonoscopies, knee replacements and cataract surgeries.

     In turns out, according a January 2019 WalletHub report, that Pennsylvania in the 9th best state to retire in, behind Florida and Colorado but ahead of other retirement meccas like Arizona and the Carolinas.

     So we've found that the people around Philadelphia behave nothing like the people around New York (even though they are only an hour-and-a-half away from each other by train or car.) They do not leave home when they retire. And their kids don't leave either. They stay close to home, in Philadelphia, working in the city or the suburbs or across the river on Pill Alley in New Jersey (a stretch that houses a number of drug companies such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson).

     When we meet people who tell us they've moved in from New Hampshire, Chicago, California, North Carolina -- as we do -- then we find out later that they've lived and worked in Chicago or California for 20 or 30 years, but they grew up in the Philadelphia area. They wanted to come back, mostly because they still have family here.

     But where we come from in New York? Nobody goes back. Maybe because it's too expensive to live there on a fixed income. Maybe because our kids aren't there anymore. Or maybe it's because the ex-New Yorkers have established lives in their new homes and don't want to leave.

     So I wonder, is your town or city more like New York, or more like Philadelphia. Do people leave, or do they stay?

Katonah, NY
     Anyway, we finally left New York, and moved to the Philadelphia area. But now we are going back for a visit. We got an airbnb in Katonah, a typical suburban town near where we used to live. The occasion is the annual rummage sale at B's old church. She will spend three days helping to organize, arrange and sell old clothes, toys, sports equipment; furniture, kitchenware and assorted other housewares.

     B likes to volunteer and be helpful. But the real draw for B is that she gets to stand around, fold clothes, and chat with all her old friends, catching up with their kids, their spouses, their activities and comings and goings.

     Meanwhile, we'll have dinner with our old neighbors (who are both still working), and another dinner with an old friend of mine (his wife is still working). I've persuaded my son to come out from Brooklyn to have lunch. I will also play golf with three old friends at a familiar public course. The last time I played there was in August 2017, the day after we attended the funeral of a friend of ours.

     I plan to take a drive past my old homes, and maybe take a pass by the school where my kids went to high school, and the old office building where I worked for 25 years.

     It's only been two years since we left. I wonder if everything will look the same?


DJan said...

I lived almost forty years in Boulder, Colorado, before retiring to the Pacific Northwest. I've been back once, and it sure looked different to my eyes. I would truly miss the green lushness of this area, but it was nice to see my old friends once again. I look forward to hearing about your experience once you get home again. :-)

RI1 said...

Hubs and I were born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Like two jerks we thought we'd have a better life retiring in Sarasota Florida. After 1.5 years living there we ran back to NY so fast there were tread miles up throughout I-95 as we made our way back.
People think it's so much rosier or cheaper or better somewhere else. Not always so.
After 1.5 years of living in a gated community, the HOA fees, as well as every other nickel and dimed item that government could think of, were levied against us. What started out to be $7K a year (HOA fees, CDD fees, gated community security fees and ad infinitum) turned up to $10K a year. How does a retiree on a fixed income keep coming up with money like that? Meanwhile, our NY upstate home on 3.5 acres (which does cater to the retirement crowd) only cost us $5K a year (taxes, insurance, maintenance etc). To us, it was a no-brainer. Thank God we never sold our NY home. We sold our Florida condo, in 4 days, complete with every stick of furniture. Because the unit was still considered new, we made a profit. If we sold today, we would have lost a bundle.
We love New York.
Pundits can call it the worst state to retire in. I say bunk!
Upstate NY is magnificent and at least our Gov Cuomo has poured billions into making the parks and recreation areas beautiful. If you're retired, on a fixed, low income, there are tons of tax breaks to keep you here plus top quality medical care (in NYC).
Stay out of NY folks. The less people who retire here, the happier hubs and I are.
We love NY.
We'll never, ever leave again(but we will snowbird. Florida is good to keep warm in the winter. That's about it.

gigi-hawaii said...

Well, I lived abroad for 7 years and don't regret coming home to Hawaii. It keeps getting better and better.

Barb said...

I could make all kinds of comments about the juxtapoistion between Florida as number one, and South Dakota as number two, lol. We all like different thing, but I have learned among other things that most retirees desires are not necessarily running to the beach. I think most of us, like most Americans in general prefer the seasons, although we may prefer milder versions, and that even on a fixed income, it is overall quality of life that matters most (fairly obvsiou with the number of retirees flocking to Colorado looking at it's cost rating). I've not been back to DC in years, and would like to do tht sometime this year (although my kids have been back and shared the difference). I know I could not live there though. The same with Germany, even though hubby and I planned that before he died. Being there alone would not be the same. Everyone has to live in a place best for them. I am surprised that Texas is not higher on the list.

Olga said...

I was born in Scranton, PA. My father always swore he would go back there in retirement but when the time came he chose to stay close to kids and (more of the real draw) grandkids. I so far manage to spend time between my VT home and my FL retirement home, but I must say it is no longer feeling like the "best of both worlds" and it's becoming unsettling to have to go back and forth and start to feel like no place is really home.

Olga said...

Ha! And I will draw one of those "everyone hates boomers" for that comment no doubt!

Wisewebwoman said...

I was raised near the sea in Ireland and knew I would have to have my old age by the sea which is on the opposite side of the Atlantic in Newfoundland. I love it here. Beach doesn't necessarily mean blazing sun a la Florida. Here it is mainly temperate, cold winters but I love the changing seasons.

I miss the buzz of Toronto sometimes but here I have most good stuff at my door, libraries, theatres, loads of galleries, etc. And excellent food. It's a small city, but reminds me of Cork, my home city. I'm getting to know everybody :)


Barbara said...

That sounds like a great trip. I grew up in Houston, went off to college, came back, met my ex and went to Louisiana, came back, moved to Florida with old flame, came back. I thought I would end up in the country either Texas or Louisiana. I didn't imagine I would spend my retirement in Houston but so far it is working out. I'm still open to moving to the country but don't seem to have that "need" it takes to make a move. Never say never though.

Tabor said...

It seems everything changes. Nothing holds still while we age. It is a reminder of how unimportant we are and that life will go on quite successfully without us. We stayed near home because of the kids, like most elderly. Our state is expensive in taxes, though and we could save more if moved just a hundred miles across the state border.

http://peacefulheartopenmind.blogspot.com/ said...

I was born in the suburbs of Detroit. My husband grew up in a small town in Upper Michigan. I moved to Upper Michigan as a young woman, met my husband and have stayed ever since. We are both retired now and have discussed many times moving to a more warm weather environment. However, when we get to making the final decision, we always choose to stay. The winters may be awful especially for seniors like us what with snow shoveling and getting out during the cold and ice, but this is home for our boys and their families. I am sure that some will say that wherever we are is home and that is true, but this is where we raised our boys and where we lived our lives of almost 50 years. Sometimes its just as good to stay as it is to move away.

DUTA said...

I like Tabor's comment on how unimportant we are. Just take a look at Chernobil. There's vegetation and an animal life going on there, just no people.. to interfere and act as if they are the saviors of plants, cats and dogs.
Perhaps, the disaster there is God's experiment for a world without human beings.

Celia said...

I was born in Seattle and my family did a lot of moving until we returned when I was 15. I pretty much lived there until I retired. I loved it but it became too expensive. Almost all of friends moved away when they retired. My youngest son had moved to E WA and started a career and family there and I relocated there when I retired. My eldest son moved here a couple of years later. Now there's 9 grandkids ages 7 to 21 here. I still miss easy proximity of the ocean and try to get there when I can. All in all this has been a good change for me though the weather can be challenging, ice and snow and the need for a 4-season wardrobe. With climate change that is increasingly true all over the state. It's a lot easier to drive in this relatively flat place in the winter than the hilly place I lived in Seattle.

Arkansas Patti said...

How nice that you can visit the place where your roots are deeper and friends still live. I was raised like an army brat so I have no real home town but have always been attracted to small towns. I lived a lot of my life in Florida but it was too expensive for me to retire there besides I was looking for 4 seasons.

Terra said...

I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived in California since 1969. I retired in 2009 and love living here in the house where we raised our sons, who also live in this town. How nice you are going back to New York for a visit and catching up with old friends.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on an island as far east as you can go in Canada (Newfoundland). Now I live as a retiree on an island (Vancouver Island) which is as far west as you can go in Canada. West is best!

Bohemian said...

Alas, Arizona is getting to be too expensive to Retire to on a Modest Fixed Income now... too many wealthy Retirees from spendy States have taken up residence and so a lot of Locals find that Aging and staying put, even if we love it here, is expensive! The mass exodus from California seems to be what we have observed, a lot of ex-Cali folks have Retired here, sold the Real Estate there which is priced crazy and nets great equity... and now drive up the prices here on Real Estate, since competing with the Cash Buyer is rough!