Thursday, February 9, 2012

City/Small Town/Country

Morrison at "All Doors Considered" has an interesting post about taking a trial run at retirement. But aside from the main points in her post, I was struck by one sentence where she posits that it is better (and certainly less expensive) to live in a small town rather than a big city. In her case, the big city is New York City, and the small town is in Rhode Island.

I agree that it is less expensive to retire to a small town, but you won't see Grace doing that.

Frankly, moving to the largest city in my state 20 years ago is one of the smartest and most soul-satisfying things I've ever done.

I didn't know how it would turn out, so I kept (and still have) my home in the much smaller coastal town where I grew up, reared two of my five children, and worked for 18 years.

I have good memories from that town, but I have better ones from the big city.

More to the point, I have better access to quality healthcare, public transportation (I'm something of a menace when I drive now--I can't imagine that it won't get worse as I get older), an amazing library system, local universities, not to mention great restaurants and an active cultural life. Not all of these things are more costly--I scout out all the freebies, which are more numerous here than they were in my hometown.

I've never quite understood the retirement dream of moving to a small town. A friend of mine did that a couple of years ago. He retired as a university professor (not from my city but from the second-largest city in the state) and moved to the beach. Financially, it was a success--but socially, not so much. He just moved back to his college-town and bought a condo. These days, if he wants to go to the beach, he drives the two hours there and gets a motel.

25 comments:

nicoleandmaggie said...

Yes, the older I get the more I want to move to a city. Actually I don't want to live in the city, I want to live in an upscale inner suburb of the city that has city amenities (shares public transportation) but ritzy benes of its own. Think... Santa Monica, Cambridge, Winnetka... that sort of place.

Morrison said...

Grace,
For the record, I do not live in Rhode Island. I relocated 90 miles out of New York City to retire. I'm still, on an express train, just 4 stops away from Manhattan. I still have access to everything NYC has to offer, including health care, Broadway, museums, etc. etc.......I just don't have the exorbitant price tag or high taxes anymore. Plus the air is a lot cleaner up here in the mountains.

Thank you for the mention.

Grace. said...

Oops--sorry Morrison, or maybe I'm not since, as I recall, there are some things you don't like about RI. I have to say, I loved it when I lived in Manhattan and my sister still resides there. I can afford my big city, but there's no way (unless I got a heck of a job offer) that I could afford to live there now, but if I had the right sugar daddy, I'd move to NYC in a heartbeat.

eemusings said...

I really enjoy getting away to the country on holidays, but I'm always so glad to come back to the city at the end of it. That said, I refuse to live in the CBD, where apartments are either leaky shoeboxes or ridiculously overpriced penthouse types. I've always lived further out in the suburbs, and love it.

Jane said...

Well I've gone and bought a farmhouse out in the country to retire to! I live in a medium sized city in sw Ontario but grew up in a village. Money is a factor in my decision plus Ive always wanted to own LAND and spend my time outside .to each their own I guess:)

Morrison said...

Grace,
My beach house is in Rhode Island. A nice place to visit.

My kids live in NYC still and it's nice to hop on the train, visit, sleep over and then hop back on the train and come home. The noise, the pollution, the crowds, etc. etc. have always daunted me. I like clean air and lots of space. But I could never really truly live too far away from NYC. I'm a city girl at heart with a country soul. I feel I have the best of both worlds.

Without the price tag.

Donna Freedman said...

Grace: Do you live in Seattle? At some point I want to have a small get-together of local PF bloggers. If you'd be interested in attending, e-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com.
Just met with a Seattle blogger who read in one of my posts that I was getting rid of some canning jars. She came by and picked them up; it turns out she lives just a couple of miles up Aurora Avenue.
I think it would be fun to see who else is writing around here.

scott said...

Hi Grace, Thanks for the story about the retired prof moving back. As my wife and I approach retirement, this will be a huge decision for us on where to go to.

Lisa said...

Having moved out of a big city to the country, I can now appreciate the big city a little more. But for now, I am content in the country. It only take me about 30 minutes to get back in the city.

lita1857 said...

I came to my house 30yrs ago, I am in a suburb outside Rochester,NY close to Lake Ontario.BEST of both worlds! You can be into the city in 15-20mins but you can own a house with some land for a reasonable price.Fast pace enough to stimulate the mind,relaxing enough to see open sky and stars at night.FABULOUS healthcare and Colleges.I'm Dorothy "there is no place like home".

Bob Lowry/Satisfying Retirement said...

I know my wife says she'd like to live in a small town, but I think she is holding onto an image that doesn't exist anymore.

I could tolerate a small city but like you, Grace, I like the amenities and services that a larger city offer. Especially as I age, good medical care becomes a high priority.

Barb said...

I spend almost 25 years in an inner suburb of Washington DC and it was perfect. I loved it. The perfect place. At the moment I still live in a sburb of a major city, just a further out suburb. When I downsize I will absolutely more further in, no matter where I do that.

Alex Morgan said...

Have to agree with this. I live in the suburbs as a younger working adult but there are so many advantages to living closer to the city center as you get older. Having had to drive around folks who can't drive anymore to their doctor's appointments (and who also couldn't walk or take public transport on their own) you start to appreciate being close to medical and community amenities. That may be possible in many suburbs or many smaller towns, but probably not so out in "the country". Then again if one's kids were out in the country it might make sense to live nearby. Have to do what works for you.

Morrison said...

Here's an interesting story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/realestate/the-hunt-trading-a-mountain-view-for-an-urban-view.html?_r=1&hpw

Elderly couple sold their Catskill Mt home for $300K+ and bought a penthouse in NYC for $1.25million. Because they wanted to retire in NYC. The maintenance alone is $1500 per month. Hubby was tired of icy driveway. Sold their car,take public transportation and now live happily ever after in the city.

Except one thing, since I am a 'local' New Yorker, there has been an upswing of crime against white haired people in the city. Especially the women. Robberies, break-ins and yes, even rape of elderly 80 year olds are on the rise. That's one of the main reasons why I would never retire in NYC. The elderly retirees have become new, easy targets. I see it daily on the evening news more and more.

Just sayin'

Another point to consider and seriously think about.

Grace. said...

Morrison--do you have any citations for the proposition that crime against the elderly is on the rise in NYC? Everything I could find (all I did was some fast googling) says the crime rates are still falling in NYC (and elsewhere). I haven't lived in NYC in nearly 40 years, but everyone I've ever talked to has always been 'afraid' to go there, much less live there. I've never understood that level of fear, much of it displaced. I remember well my parents coming to my graduation in NYC and finding the crowded streets uncomfortable and 'dangerous.' They never understood that those crowds/streets were safe--if muggings happened, they took place on the tree-lined 'safe-looking' side streets!

Morrison said...

First off, the NYC police are notorious for lying and fudging the numbers. I go by what I see daily on the evening, local news. Yes, crime is up against the elderly. Anyone with white hair has become a new, easy target in this economy. They are beaten to a pulp in stairways, elevators, front hallways and entrance ways. Sometimes just for the two dollars they have in their wallets. It's disgusting.

There is no way in hell I would retire in NYC or the surrounding bouroughs, especially in a high rise with an elevator. If you think a doorman will protect you, think again. It is not uncommon anymore to hear about 80 yr old women being raped.

Also on the uprise is crime against the elderly who live in their own homes. Entire communities are being targeted by teams of scammers who claim they are the electric meter or gas reader employee. The thieves work in teams. One distracts the elderly person while the other breaks in the back of the house and robs the old person blind.

Do you want me to send you tons of links of the individual crimes? I watch the CBS local news every day.

Crime is up on the subways. Crime is up on the streets. I wouldn't believe any statistics the police provide.

Morrison said...

here you go:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/09/27/l-i-brothers-arrested-again-for-chimney-scam-of-elderly-woman/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/08/02/police-say-brooklyn-suspect-snatched-purse-from-elderly-wheelchair-bound-woman/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/07/12/police-robbery-suspect-targeting-elderly-women-in-chelsea-west-village/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/01/12/81-year-old-woman-bodyslammed-mugged-in-subway-station/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/01/11/police-con-artists-robbed-elderly-women-in-brooklyn/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/02/23/police-seek-3-robbery-suspects-targeting-elderly-bronx-residents/

I could go on and on and on and on. Just go to CBS local NYC news, in their search window, type in the words 'elderly crime' and you'll get a nice eyefull.

Yup. Sure. Sure I will. Retire in a city. Uh huh.

Morrison said...

PS, my own mother was mugged on the steps of a train station. The robber grabbed her purse and threw my mother down the stairwell. Nice. Very nice.

As for me, I had to stop wearing dresses because I was sick and tired of feeling hands go up my skirts.

Yup. Yeah. I'll go live in a city. Sure I will. NOT!

Grace. said...

Morrison, I know you are smart enough to know the difference between empirical evidence and statistical evidence. I can give you story after story of crime (and yes, crime against the elderly) in every place including my very small hometown. But while these stories are concerning and terrible, the truth is, crime IS going down. This is true virtually everywhere, including NYC.

But the choice of where to live and how and why one feels safe living there is a very personal decision. You've got your choice and I've got mine--I think we're both right.

Living Almost Large said...

My parents live in small town pre retirement and now in big city in the city. Medical care, public transit, etc played a big role in the decision. Currently I live in the closest suburb to a big city, very expensive, but I'm almost ready to move out and afford a home. Well slightly out. I think it depends on the type of small town. Small college town? Or small town without any amenities?

Also depends on the people's age. Living with great public transit and access at age 80 is more important than my mom at age 60 (who retired at age 55). But most people I know, their parents are moving into the big city because they are selling their big homes, buying condos or assisted living facility.

If you live in Seattle, my parents friends and my friend's parents (2 different couples) just bought in Mirabella. Very nice and posh. Turns out there is one in Portland to boot. Something more readily available in bigger cities. And something I believe more retirees are looking for and investing in.

Morrison said...

Grace,
You have to define 'crime'. Murders are included in the crime statistics. Attacks against the elderly are not. Because of the economy, the elderly are easy targets. Why would anyone put themselves in harm's way? There is no more respect for the elderly as there was years ago. Why do you delude yourself?
Before I visit my kids in NYC, I have to dye my hair. I can not go there, and think I am safe, with my gray hair. You won't find this fact on any chart or sheet.

Call it my NYC gut feeling. Society is not being nice to the elderly as it once was. There's no respect. Sorry.

An elderly person, with a cane or a walker, on a subway platform is just asking for trouble. Same, even in a bus.

'Nuff said.

NYC does not offer anymore what some small, even college towns may offer. Most of the Broadway shows are revivals (My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, Evita) are all coming back. Again. How many times can I see these over and over again? The art galleries travel. Many hospitals in NYC have closed. Do you have any idea what these hospitals look like anymore. Go to one of them on a Saturday night....the emergency room especially. They are dirty, filthy and unkempt. My dad died in one of them. It was awful.

I am only speaking about NYC. But I am sure many more big cities, especially with all the state cutbacks are feeling the blows. Police and fire staff are down, libraries are closing........be forewarned. Plus, as more and more people rely on govt assistance, they head to the cities to get their checks/benefits/jobs/healthcare/whatever.

Grace. said...

Morrison, I get that you are afraid, and that fear would keep you from enjoying the benefits of city life. Actually that fear might keep you from even seeing any benefits to city life. I tend to have a broader view of things. Crime statistics, for example, are broken down by age. The most dangerous ages are 18 to 35, particularly for men--that's when one is far more likely to be a victim of a crime. That's true in NYC, in my city, and even in my small hometown. But the facts don't matter when one is afraid, and frankly I wouldn't live anywhere that would make me afraid all the time. I think both you and I have made choices consistent with our personal world views.

I'm not quite sure how you got from crime to Broadway, but while the old stuff is always with us, so is the new--witness "Warhorse" or "Book of Morman." NYC will always fascinate me, and if I could conjure up about three times what I think I'll actually have to live on in retirement, I'd move to NYC most gratefully. Since my sugar daddy has yet to surface, I'll just have to be satisfied with the biggest urban area in my relatively low-population state.

Jan said...

Having had to live in a big city for so much of my working life but actually coming from a countryside background, was always anathema to me.

I missed the birds and the bush in order to have access to jobs and public transport...it never was a 'fair swap'.

Now I have been involuntarily retired and can't afford to live in the city so I moved back to 'the bush' as we say here in Australia.

The only guarantee we have in life is that of constant change. Choice is not always an option in retirement so the only thing I can do now, is to choose how I think. And I have always chosen to be happy.

Morrison said...

Grace,
I'm not going to get into a pissing match. But here are some crime statistics against the elderly, especially in NYC that never get reported.

First off, the elderly do not report crimes. They are too embarrassed. They are reluctant to let anyone know what happened to them (robbery, theft, abuse, rape) for fear of having their freedoms taken away or for just looking stupid and a fool.

Since you like statistics, according to Crime In America.net:

http://crimeinamerica.net/2009/06/13/elder-abuse/

Crimes against those above 60 years of age has seen an upswing of 80.9%. Elders who are unemployed or retired are part of those being attacked more. The main group attacking this age group are other unemployed by 41% or their own family member by 56%. Crimes such as verbal abuse, harrassment or just by being ignored has risen substantially against the elderly.

You will not find any of these facts the NYPD will tout, claiming instead that their city's crime rate has gone down. Yes, murders and armed robberies are down but the other crimes are up. Neither of which anyone wants to experience. You WILL be discriminated against, and treated unfairly and yes, abused if you have white hair and are over the age of 60. Period.

That's what life for a retired, elderly person will be like in a big city.

I see it first hand all the time. For example, an elderly lady walked into a bake shop and ordered a loaf of bread. The salesgirl was rude, crude, refused to hand her the bread and told her to go get it herself off the back racks. She was horrid to this lady. I stepped in, corrected the salesgirl and demanded to see the supervisor immediately and reported her rude behavior. But how many people would come to the aid of an elderly person? Most mind their own business.

The elderly here in NY are made fun of on the buses, the trains, in stores, at the doctors office, waiting on lines while shopping. I can go on and on and on. Is that what kind of a retired life you want? Do you think while you are watching War Horse of some opera that you will be treated fairly or with respect? You're just some target to a scam artist. That's all.
It's not the utopia you think it is. Life in a big city, especially NYC is tough. I know. I grew up there. They chew you up and spit you out. You show any weakness and you're horse meat.

I'm not afraid of anything. But I do have a brain and I know my limitations. I go to NYC every month or so. Hubby is there every week. Each and every day it gets worse for those with gray hair. That's because hubby and I have gray hair and we can see the reaction in people's eyes whenever we peer into them.

Ugh.

I retired to a quaint college town about 90 to 100 miles outside of NYC. For $21 I can get a RT tix and visit NYC for the day, whenever I want. But when I go there, I make sure my hair is dyed, I wear running shoes, youngish clothes, am alert and aware of my surroundings and keep in constant contact with hubby and kids (texting).

It is not the panacea you think it is. Gosh, I wish it was. I wish it was.

tina said...

Having lived in a small town most of life, I plan to retire to a city. I have visited almost all the large cities in the us and I will take the crime(just so I don't get beat on by morrison)and any other downsides because the benefits are worth it.

Also fyi, crime against the elderly is up everywhere. In my area, there are constant break ins at seniors home in the search for medications.

tina