A Breath of Fresh Air

If you have been following Picture Retirement for the past year, you know that Malcolm and I have been ‘trying on lifestyles’ while waiting for the housing market to right itself. After we purged a lot of ‘stuff’ and sold our home more than a year ago, we spent some time in a nearby beach cottage, we took a few short road trips to check out some desirable locations, we moved in with my MIL for nearly eight months, and for the past three months, we have been living in an age-restricted rental apartment.

When it comes to sampling lifestyles, this is a three-in-one-place opportunity. 1) Apartment living 2) Age Restricted Community 3) Size (how small is too small)

We have learned a lot about location and size, but we are still unsure of ‘community’ and what that might look like for us.

We have always lived in a planned community, governed by an HOA and Board of Directors, which is both a plus and a minus. HOA (homeowners association) communities are uniform in appearance, usually gated, and have documented rules that homeowners must follow. Some communities offer style choices but remain within a singular theme – Coastal, Spanish, Mediterranian. Most have no age restriction, but lately, it seems that fifty-five and over communities are gaining in popularity in our area.

Our Experience

Creating Cozy

After having experienced three months in a fifty-five and over apartment rental community, we are not yet ready to make a determination as to whether we would want this homogenous community lifestyle in a ‘forever home.’ But, we can see the appeal.

Our apartment is comfortable for a transition home, but we already know that 1400 sf is not enough space to accommodate our lifestyle and hobbies. Malcolm’s baking supplies take up one full closet and my camera equipment and craft supplies don’t have a dedicated home, so they are sorted in my clothes closet. The kitchen is adequate, although not entirely comfortable for the two of us together. I certainly don’t mind taking turns cooking. 🙂

Of course, none of these are life-altering problems, just minor inconveniences. The pros of being here by far outweigh the cons.

  • Amenities – pool, gym, hair salon, fitness instructor, theater, pickleball, bocce ball
  • Events – weekly cocktail parties, live entertainment, educational talks, field trips, fitness classes
  • Transportation
  • On-site management team, maintenance staff
  • Manageable, low-maintenance space

This over fifty-five community is a rental apartment complex of just over 100 units. It is self-contained within a small property and not contiguous with other communities. It is in close proximity to downtown, restaurants, the beach, our friends, and not far from Malcolm’s mom. We haven’t experienced a significant downside since moving here, and adapting has been fairly easy.

  • Being here encourages frequent physical activity and participation in social activities
  • We find it easy to meet new friends in this environment
  • We have eliminated burdensome home maintenance tasks and associated costs
  • There are no HOA fees or Board of Directors with arbitrary rules to endure
  • We eliminated our property tax bill and homeowner insurance fees

I realize that I have made a fairly good argument for living here forever and not owning another home, but we still believe that it will make sense in the long term, we just have to be smart about it.


We have determined a few things that we definitely want in our next home. I am sure we will adjust this list a few times during the next year or so, but as of today, these are the things we are sure of.

  • New Construction
  • Planned community
  • Housing options ranging from small condos to estate-size homes within the same community
  • A flexible floorplan that will accommodate aging in place (min. 2,000 sf)
  • One level, no pool, low maintenance yard or no yard, small patio for an outdoor grille
  • Community pool, gym
  • A park or walking trails (green spaces)
  • Close to hospitals, markets, libraries, and restaurants
  • No golf course!

So, there you have it. The housing market is beginning to shift (ever so slowly) and we have visited a few new developments in our area. While some of them have homes and floorplans that suit us, none of them have the location and proximity to goods and services that we are looking for. Isolating ourselves in the boonies for our elder years is off the table. In the meanwhile, we will continue to enjoy our comfortable little, maintenance-free space and wait for the right opportunity to surface.

“Unexpected change can be like a breath of fresh air a little brisk at first, but magic for the body and soul.” ― Susan Wiggs

Related Posts – In case you missed any of our transitions

Boomerang Kids

Moving, Not for the Timid

Exploring Island Life

Our Evolving Retirement

44 thoughts on “A Breath of Fresh Air

  1. Hi Suzanne – it’s been really interesting following your journey because we’ll be on a similar path in the years to come. I swing around so much in what I think we’d like and even end up back to staying in our house and only using the downstairs part! We’re not super-social people, so community living can be a negative as much as a positive for us, but I also like the quiet and security of an over 50’s complex. I’ll keep hashing it over and watching as you live it out IRL. 🙂


    1. Leanne, I was worried about ‘people being all up in my business’ when we moved here, but those thoughts were unwarranted. I have established a quiet, healthy routine that sometimes includes doing things with my neighbors, but not often. I can see how life could get complicated over time, which is why I’d be hesitant to purchase a home in a similar environment, but, I am very happy that we sampled the lifestyle now and can make an informed decision later on.


  2. Thanks for this update and your conclusions. We aren’t quite to the point of selling our house and downsizing, but I read with GREAT INTEREST the adventures of those who are doing it. I suspect I’d find it difficult to live anywhere that was too homogenous, but I would like some of the amenities that come within such communities. Food for thought here.


    1. Ally, I assumed that your recent remodeling project was for your enjoyment and not to update your home for sale. You’ll know when the time is right and until then just enjoy your home. I nudged Malcolm forward a little because I didn’t want to be facing downsizing in our 70’s, which is just three years away. Yikes! He is very happy that we have most of the purging and ‘heavy lifting’ behind us. The next move should be pretty easy.

      The homogenous aspect of our rental community is beginning to grow on us a little, as we make friends and find our ‘place’ here. But, I do miss seeing young people and children when I walk through the neighborhood.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Suzanne, your list of what you’re looking for in your next home sounds very much like what we’re looking for, with the exception of home size. We’re very comfortable living in small spaces (many years of full-time travel prepared us, LOL). We’ve discovered that the home we’re in now is too big for our needs, and it’s only 1600 square feet!

    Although we love where we are right now in Apalachicola, we also know that it’s not where we’re going to be comfortable 10 years or so down the road. It’s too isolated, and the property is far too much to take care of. We know what we’re looking for, we just don’t know where it will be! Is Florida the only place you’re considering? You are so clear in stating your desires, and that really helps when making a big decision. Meanwhile, it’s great that you’re enjoying where you are now.


  4. Laurel, in theory, I like north Georgia and the Carolinas, but with Malcolm’s mom nearby and our daughter in Miami, we are hesitant to look beyond Florida at this point. I understand your concerns about your current property, both from a maintenance perspective and from being isolated. The very things that make it so special now will be burdensome down the road. I have never believed that we were intended to live out the whole of our lives in one place, so changing and adapting feels natural.

    There is a new community, conveniently named ‘Newfield’ which we have an interest in. It will contain about 3,000 homes of all shapes and sizes in a ‘main street, village’ setting, with parks, ball fields, an equestrian center, shops etc. If the developer delivers as promised, it will be exactly what we are looking for – walkable neighborhoods with lots of common areas and green space. Homes are set for delivery in 2024, so it will require a bit of a wait. We’ll see.


  5. How interesting it is to read other people’s thoughts – it’s so thought provoking when it’s different from your own lifestyle. We are 65 (me) and 57 (Michaela) but we wouldn’t even contemplate a community setting, wouldn’t be on our radar at all – which is why it’s so interesting to read through your list of benefits and gains. Of course our passion is travel and we are lucky enough to be able to live our dream – it’s now mid August and we’ve only been in our own home for 49 days all year, so you can see our chosen path! It will be very interesting to see where you actually end up when you’ve weighed up all the considerations.


  6. We talk periodically about what our next move might be, knowing we won’t want to have any stairs. We could realistically live on the main floor of our house, but why have the lower level if we don’t use it? We currently use ALL of our house, including a fair amount of unfinished basement space for storage and workout equipment. We each need space for our hobbies as well. I can’t imagine downsizing to the point that I can’t do the things I love the most. So, that’s our dilemma – finding something on one level but large enough to cover all our needs. We’re already in an HOA community, which has many advantages I’d like to continue. We’re far from needing to move but I also don’t want to wait until it becomes a “have to”. Good luck in your search!!


    1. Hi Linda, it sounds like you have a similar situation to what we had. At 66 and 67 we are likely a few years ahead of you guys and had reached a point where the house was getting too much for us. Physically, we could have managed the maintenance for another few years, but we would not want to go through that move in our 70’s. Purging was the hardest part – which is why we still have a storage unit for some stuff we weren’t ready to let go of.

      We are hoping to get lucky with a builders floorplan that can be tweaked to our needs. Like you, no stairs and room for our hobby supplies are a must!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Phil, You guys are much too adventurous to settle down to a routine. You should absolutely continue to follow your passion for as long as you are able. At least you have a home base to return to when you tire of the road.

    We love to travel, but our trips are typically a few days to a few weeks in duration, (mostly because of having responsibility for Malcolm’s mom). Even if it weren’t for her, we probably wouldn’t leave home for more than a few months per year.

    The wonderful thing about this blogging world is that we get to meet folks who are experiencing inspiring lifestyles on a variety of levels. Lucky is the man who gets to choose the one he considers satisfying. Thanks for sharing your choice with all of us through your enlightening blog. It is always a joy to read. Take care.


  8. I think it’s wonderful and just so smart of you both to try on different living arrangements for size, and to learn from that what you want and don’t want in a more permanent move. I have seen many (including my own mom and stepdad) move to what they THINK they want only to find out it was a mistake and having to move again too soon. (It was getting a little tiring moving them from house to condo, back to another house, and finally back to another condo…). Wishing you every success in finding the perfect place!



    1. Hi Deb, we have moved four times during our marriage and this is by far the most difficult in terms of defining what we want and what we need. Previous moves considered our daughter, and choices seemed simple – near a good school, a nice neighborhood with children, etc. We define ‘home’ very differently these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Suzanne, I didn’t realise you are actually renting. I thought you had bought a new property there. Good for you to do a bit of sampling of different lifestyles before you commit to something more permanent.
    It has been so interesting to follow your journey of discovery, sounds like you now have a much better understanding of your needs and desires than when you started this process.
    The important thing is that you are enjoying and making the most of this new chapter of life.


  10. I think a lot of us are benefitting from your experiments 🙂 We don’t have the same sort of gated communities in the UK that you have in the US (apart from a few very exclusive estates) but we do have retirement complexes like the one you are sampling. I can see both the pros and the cons, but my husband would mainly see cons I suspect. It’s not something we’re considering right now but I wouldn’t rule it out for the future. Meanwhile I totally agree with you about the necessity of living close to amenities as we age.


    1. Hi Sarah, we are trying to project into the future and anticipate our needs as we age in order to facilitate a good quality of life for as long as possible. It’s much like throwing a dart at the moon, but the more we learn the better choices we will make. Being around older people has yielded some sobering realizations.


  11. It has been enlightening reading the post and the comments. We downsized about 16 years ago, and I haven’t missed my ‘stuff’ for a minute. I could do with maybe one more room, but it’s not critical. I do like less cleaning. 🙂 One thing about aging is that doctor appointments become more necessary and availability of good quality medical is a high point on the check list. The years of one primary care appointment are blissful, but at some point most need a couple of specialists. When you do find just the right place, you will be educated buyers for sure, and that is always a good thing. Enjoy the rest of August.


  12. I’m not surprised, judging from the comments, that many of us are watching your journey with interest. Although we aren’t ready to move, we have talked about the concept and what we would look for (similar list to yours). I know that Florida is very advantageous to seniors tax-wise, but too many negatives for us. North Carolina, perhaps? Most likely, we’d stay in the western part of the country, but the drought doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So much to think about…


    1. Janis, I hope it is a topic that everyone our age is thinking about. I am sure some people are in a current situation that will continue to work well into old age. But, it never hurts to take stock and try to project future needs. It is so important to begin now, while we are still able – at least with the purging part.

      North Carolina is beautiful and a nice place to visit. Not sure I could live there. I need sunshine!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I love that your last year has solidified your “design requirements” for the next phase of living. Interestingly, our last move put us on a single floor home (no stairs) in an area that is easy to get outdoor maintenance paid for – landscapers in our neighborhood every day! I don’t believe it’s our last move, but I can see us here for quite a while. No, we didn’t downsize nearly enough, so that’s still a future issue. It’s going to be hard to leave our water view.. love it so much!


  14. Suzanne,
    I think we’re set for now, but I have enjoyed your list of “must haves” for your next home, because you have made me think through a few things I might have done differently. We have a 2500 sf home in a planned community, but we do have a second floor that I never visit. We have a pool but no gym. We’re not age restricted and I enjoy mingling with folks that are somewhat younger at times. All things considered, I’m glad we have the big move behind us and, like I said, we’re set…I think. Joe


  15. Hi Suzanne, Great to read your update. You make great points, especially on the concept of “community.” Your pro/con list is interesting and obviously you and Malcolm have given this a great deal of thought. Not a black and white decision. You remind me how in the meantime, you have each other and and you are enjoying the ‘now.’💕


    1. Hi Erica, I am really glad we didn’t jump into buying another home right away. This time has been good for us. Living with Malcolm’s mom helped us to acknowledge our own age progression and do some forward thinking with that in mind. The house we would have bought a year ago would not have fit the criteria we have now. Hope all is well with you. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s really nice and helpful that you lived in different places over the last year and a half, which means you can compare and form opinions based on experience.

    Every time I read about a retirement community, I think about The Villages. Have you ever visited? I realize it’s not close to where you live, but the concept is interesting and ticks some of your boxes. That being said, I’m sure there are negatives and there are golf courses. 🙂 Something will come your way at the right time!


  17. Lisbet, funny you mention the Villages, I almost referenced them in this post as an example of what we do not want. We were there last March for the balloon festival and spent a few hours checking it out. It is way, way over the top in terms of ‘manufactured.’ High density and congestion is also an issue. Everyone drives a souped-up golf cart like a status symbol, yikes! The whole place felt pompous and a bit plastic. I like the amenities of a fifty-five and over community, but I don’t think I could live among the people in such a concentrated environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Suzanne, It’s great to read your update. You’re wise to purge and take time to find your new home. I’m sure something that meets your criteria will come your way soon.


  19. The two of you are so smart with trying out all your options before making any firm commitments. Our last two homes were over 5000 sq. ft. and now our home is 2300 sq. ft. We live in a gated community of 50 purposely built homes with no age restrictions and no amenities, that was our choice. Instead of a community clubhouse, we opted to join a yacht club where we have made wonderful friends.
    We are 5 minutes from everywhere, downtown, the beaches, restaurants, shopping and most important our doctors and the hospital.

    You will find your perfect next home, you are certainly going about it the right way.


  20. Christie Hawkes

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Suzanne. It’s been interesting to see the comparisons. We currently are maintaining two homes, one in cooler northern Utah close to our children, and another in warm southern Utah, where we can escape the snow and enjoy the beautiful red rock. Eventually, we will reduce that to one. I plan to follow your example and make a carefully thought-through decision.


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