Be an aging prepper. Baby Boomers consistently say they don’t want to leave their family home as they age. That they want to “age-in-place.” Moving is too much hassle. Retirement communities are for old people. Not me.

Aging-in-place is the plan for the vast majority of aging Baby Boomers. Not moving works for a lot of reasons. I don’t have to leave the familiar. We’ve built a home not just a house. I have all these memories. Not to mention all the stuff. The place of age-in-place is often paid for. Aging-in-place is perfectly understandable as a desire and even a plan.

But it’s a plan that works until it doesn’t. A health crisis or changed family circumstances can sneak up on us. Then those stairs are too much. Or the required maintenance is more than I want to or can manage. Maybe I need to be closer to family caregivers. Then moving under the gun is traumatic, difficult, and unsatisfying. At Aging With Freedom®, we want the freedom of choice as we age.

If our primary plan for where to live in retirement fell apart? Plan A didn’t work. What then? One of our best successful retirement tips is to be an aging prepper™.

Plan B

Aging preppers have a Plan B. You may not want to move. You may never need to move. But plan what you would do if the need to move and downsize arises. And prepare. Identify and track a shortlist of options. Know what you like. And what you don’t like. Similar to buying insurance against calamity or prepping for a disaster, the risk may never become a reality. The planning may never pay-off. All the better if it doesn’t. But if it does? You’re ready. With a plan. Your Plan B.

Criteria for Your Shortlist

Our preparation? For us, we’re starting to track senior communities and retiree services in towns and cities in which we could see living. And living well. We love great architecture. So good design is important to us. But if you need to activate your Plan B? You’re looking for more than architecture or square footage. For us, a sense of joining a supportive community is the crucial criterion. You can be just as lonely and isolated in a new condo, age-restricted community, or Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) as in your old multistory house. We’re shopping for friends and great staff as much as space. Other criteria? We care about the quality of the local healthcare system, food, personal security, weather, and cost-of-living. Proximity to your family is often a driving requirement. Be realistic. Family proximity can trump many other “like to have” criteria.

Read in your adult offspring on the Plans

And if you have adult children? Make sure they know and understand both Plan A and Plan B. Our daughter knows our plans. She’s prepared to help us stick to our guns. We’ve already downsized once. And plan one more downsizing before we lose the energy and focus on dealing with a move and all that entails. We’ve made the decision to ideally downsize before being forced to do so. Partly to retain more control. But also, to ease the burden on the First Daughter. And leave time to make friends and build a social support network in a new location. Before we need it.

Plan B Deadline

We’ve set an aging prepper deadline of age-70 for the next round of downsizing and the end of aging-in-place, or at least the current place. Planning the disposition of the collections of a lifetime is a lot of work. Those tools? Someone can put them to use. Those family heirlooms? More valuable if the stories are known and attached. You don’t have to do the same, but you should have an aging prepper deadline to have your Plan B outlined and ready to go.

Minimalism

You can’t take it with you. All your stuff will get distributed somewhere. Eventually. Minimalism is something of a trend anyway. If you spread out the downsizing effort over time? It’s easier than the forced labor of a move against a deadline. Or the burden of leaving all the work to family.

Adventures in Aging Prepper Research

Make planning an adventure. We spent a recent trip exploring options in-between home and Florida. This trip was to the white sands of the Panhandle around Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Seaside. Neither of us had ever been to this section of the Gulf Coast. We covered a lot of virgin territories. And we felt like several stops could be “home.” Most of the options were warmer than the frozen tundra of Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota. We’re considering the options for our Plan B.

Outward Bound Exploration

  • St. Louis, MO — Gateway to the West. We have fond memories of a long-ago Fourth of July under the Arch. A friend recently moved to the outlying exurb of Alton, IL for affordability, the local arts community, and family proximity. We’re impressed with some of the reasonably priced historic Victorian brick homes available in the St. Louis area.
  • Metropolis, IL — Superman’s hometown. And proud of it. The main street terminates in a classic courthouse square featuring a super size Superman statute of monumental proportions. The local Superman Museum and store is a feast for any DC Comics fanatics. Strike your best Superman pose.
  • Nashville, TN — Home of Country Music and one of the fastest-growing growing cities in the country. We always love visiting Nashville. The tornado damage and deaths this week are tragic. We checked on some of our favorite Nashville destinations and they seem to have survived, including one of our favorite CCRCs, The Heritage at Brentwood, an Life Care Services (LCS) community. We revisited the equestrian-themed Heritage to see a new addition. More in a future review. But, wow! A standout favorite CCRC.
  • Springhill, TN — Major GM assembly plant and advanced manufacturing center drives the thrive in this Nashville exurb. We lived in a Del Webb planned community in Anthem, Arizona. Del Webb knows the early retirement market all the way back to the pioneering Sun City. So we checked out a new, albeit smaller Del Webb active-retiree planned community, Southern Springs. A future post will delve deeper.
  • Huntsville, AL — NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Huntsville Botanical Garden as well as a branch of the University of Alabama. This was our surprise gem of a discovery. We loved Huntsville. We’ll be back. One of our aging prepper Plan B criteria? We want to be back in a vibrant university community. University cultural events, sports, research libraries, continuing education and more support a return to the communal experience of our college years.

Gulf Coast Destinations

  • Fort Walton Beach, FL — White sands on the Florida panhandle Gulf Coast and surprisingly reasonable if spotty once off the touristy main highway. Fort Walton Beach has some reminders that this is hurricane alley. High ground doesn’t seem like such a bad place to live. We enjoyed visiting but maybe our lakeshore is a safer investment than then Gulf shore. Still, walking the sugar-like white sand beaches is amazing. And the sandpipers and great blue herons were fascinating beach companions.
  • Seaside, FLSeaside features the same white sands as Fort Walton Beach. It’s a gorgeous planned community, but beyond our price appetite. Still, it’s nice to dream. This is the idyllic vision in our heads brought to life. This was literally like walking onto a flawless movie set. The Truman Show. See our post on Seaside. Seaside Siren Song If you can afford the freight, you probably have a second home when a hurricane does blow through. But in the meantime? Heaven.
  • Pensacola, FL — Home of U.S. Naval Aviation. The Naval Air Station (NAS Pensacola) was still closed to the public. Due to a tragic recent terrorist attack. So we missed seeing the museum on base. We did meet some very serious Marines at the gate. Semper Fi! The sky was full of military aircraft. Especially memorable was a dramatic pair of V-22 Ospreys. This is the Marine’s fast vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor substitute for slowpoke helicopters. Impressive. Flying close together a few hundred feet off the ground. Coming off the Gulf and banking towards us. Our own private, unscheduled airshow.
  • Gulf Shores, AL and Mobile Bay, MS — Sometimes called the “Redneck Riviera.” This area is worth a return visit to the Hart of Dixie stomping grounds. We didn’t find the fictional Blue Bell, AL but it felt like we could, just around the next corner.

Return Trip Discoveries

  • Pine Bluffs, AK — In the Mississippi River Delta we learned, “Finish the Pumps!” And the Catch-22 in which Delta communities and farmers are caught. The federal government first spent billions of dollars building levees. The levees are meant to protect the Delta from the flooding Mississippi and its tributaries. The Army Corps of Engineers always planned to install pumps in the levees. The pumps are to keep the land behind the levees drained of the same rains that swell the rivers. Without the pumps, the levees turn Delta farmland into stagnant retention ponds. The Corps finished the levees. Then the EPA decided it wanted that farmland to be wetlands. And won’t allow the Corps to finish the pumps. Leaving the Delta worse off than if the levees had never been built. Sad. Government at its contradictory, wasteful worst.
  • Branson, MO — Country Music’s second home in the Ozarks on the shores of Lake Taneycomo. A little touristy but typically far enough south to be exempt from most of winter’s fury. Of course, the day we were in Branson? We had a short-lived ice storm.
  • Kansas City, Mo — Another thriving, rejuvenated downtown. We spent some time in the Crossroads district and toured a jewel box CCRC. Another follow-on post will highlight Claridge Court, by Lifespace Communities. We skipped the usual barbeque and instead did steaks one night and Thai the next. Lori did some dress shopping for an upcoming wedding.

Former Home Sweet but Not as Cold Home

  • Des Moines, IA — Familiar territory with great healthcare and a thriving tech community supported by multiple colleges and universities including our alma mater, Iowa State, in the nearby Ames, IA. The snow-cover demarcation line was just South of Des Moines. Highlighting the difference a hundred miles of latitude makes in Winter’s reach.

We looked at options in each community. The hunt is part of the fun. More on the lifestyle options explored in later posts.

Home on the Tundra

And, of course, the 2,500-mile trip concluded with a return to Frozen. The worst one hundred miles? The last one hundred miles. We hit a blinding snowstorm. Disney’s Elsa secretly lives next door to us. The snow and ice homecoming reminded us of our desire to not risk slippery ice and broken hips as we age. From Des Moines to home is normally two-hours. An easy 100 miles of Interstate. But normally you can see the road. Night fell. Snow fell even harder. Packed snow obscured highway lane lines. Ice-encrusted windshield wipers were noisy and pretty useless. We reduced speed. Followed a snowplow. Crawled along through blowing snow. Managed to keep it between the ditches. But it was a nearly four-hour slog.

Definitely time for an aging prepper Plan B. Something other than Minnowa (the Minnesota and Iowa border region) in Winter’s discontent.

Discovering Your Aging Prepper Plan B

We’re using our early retirement and trips to explore our options for what could be, if we want or if we need, as we age. Our current Plan A is to age-in-place in our lake home in Northern Iowa near the Minnesota border. We’d like to supplement the cabin with some wintertime travel or snowbirding to avoid the worst of Elsa’s Frozen winter wrath. We plan to downsize again. Eventually. But should the need arise, earlier than envisioned? We’re ready. There’s a Plan B. We know our options. That makes us aging preppers. We still feel young. But we’re prepped for when that or other circumstances might change. Aging prepper planning. (Say that six times fast.)

Reading the surveys? Most of our Baby Boomer peers similarly plan to age-in-place. Is that you too? It’s a great Plan A. Understandable. Easy. And frequently the most affordable. Aging-in-place isn’t a bad idea. Just be ready with a Plan B if life throws you some surprises. Investigate your options before circumstances force an unplanned decision. Prepare for when aging-in-place doesn’t work anymore. It may never be necessary to go to Plan B. But life will be easier if you invest the time to understand options that fit you. It can also be fun looking and considering the alternatives. Be an aging prepper.

7 Steps for an Aging Prepper

7 Steps for an Aging Prepper to be ready to downsize in retirement even if you plan to age-in-place. People plan. God laughs. Things change. Be ready with a Plan B.

1. Running list of options.

Constantly investigate the options. If you had to move tomorrow? Or wanted to move? Where would you go next? What would you do? Or needed more in-home help? Who would you call? Solutions may include services, not just new digs. As you age or your needs and priorities change? Some early favorites will drop off the list. You’ll find emergent options. And you’ll know a perfect fit when you see it.

2. Make the investigation fun!

When you travel to places you like? Ask  yourself, “Could I see myself living happily here?” Check out the local options. Look at both buildings (the architecture) and the community of people. Both inside the building or neighborhood and the larger city or region. Great architecture in a sterile, isolating, unfriendly building or community? You won’t be happy. Picture perfect architecture isn’t enough.

3. Look beyond the building and the price to consider the total value.

The larger community matters too. What’s available for entertainment, education, food, and healthcare? Or your other priorities? The combination of cost and quality yield value. Yes, the total must fit the available budget. But cost-of-living isn’t just a dollar figure. There’s a, “What do I get for the dollar spent?” calculation as well. Rural areas often cost less, but access to healthcare may be a challenge. Urban buildings cost more. But maybe you can rely on ridesharing services like Lyft and eliminate the costly automobile. There are a host of similar tradeoffs. It’s the net value that counts. Not just individual price tags. A good library and a thriving live music scene are on our list.

4. Prioritize.

Constantly. Consciously list all your like to have features and benefits of your home in retirement. Then prioritize the list. Some will emerge as must haves over the nice to haves. And one or two will trump everything else. Affordability? Money always matters, but it’s never the only thing that matters. Sunny climes like Arizona, Southern Texas, and Florida often beckon.  But if proximity to family is at the top of your list of priorities? You won’t be happy. And like the running list of options? Your priorities may change as you age through retirement. Snowbirding may work for many years but the pattern is clear. When it doesn’t work, we gravitate back to be near family.

5. Keep your family read-in on your planning.

Keep your adult children, heirs, or key friends up to date on your priorities and planning. It will reduce their anxiety and minimize conflict. Just knowing you are planning alternatives is important to them. And it will help them help you. It prevents working at cross purposes.

6. Look ahead.

Raise your vision to the horizon. Change gets harder to implement as we age and disabilities accumulate or energy declines. One constant message from prior retirees? Act sooner rather than later. It’s emotionally frustrating to be moved rather than to act on your own. And there’s some guilt with burdening family. Control is a real priority. We like to be self-directed rather than compelled. But that requires us to be proactive.

7. Pull the trigger.

When your current strategy, your Plan A, no longer fits your priorities? When you can see the horizon requires change? Whether we want to change or not? Be proactive. Pull the trigger. Implement your then best Plan B. Be a successful Aging Prepper.