Making the Decision? (When and where to move to?)



Many of us as we age suffer from a disease called ‘Gerascophobia’; an abnormal and persistent fear of growing old. Sufferers of this malady, experience undue anxiety about aging and even though they may be in good health physically, economically and otherwise – they worry about the loss of their looks, the loss of independence, of inactivity after retirement, of impaired mobility, and the onset of disease… symptoms indicative of their inability; and unwillingness to accept that they are growing older.


A classic victim was my mother-in-law. After staying with us for many years, she eventually moved into Mothwa Haven, a Care Home in Moore Road, Durban. I visited her after she had been in for a week… and asked her how she was finding the experience? His reply amazed me! She answered… “It’s lovely, but it’s full of old people!” – This from an 83 year old whose admittance to the Care Home was based on her own increasing ill health. She herself had fallen 13 times in the previous 12 months! A side-effect of the disease is procrastination; a reluctance on the part of some elderly people to move into appropriate retirement accommodation. They invariably say we will move some time in the future – not realising that perhaps the future is now!


Making the decision about when to move can be an extremely difficult experience –   one with which many seniors struggle. And generally, if both you and your spouse are still living happily together in your family home; as long as your financial circumstances allow you to rattle around in a house, the size of which now far exceeds your needs, then you are unlikely to think of moving. If you have not yet experienced any serious security problems; have not yet been victims of crime and violence endemic in South African society; if at least some of your children still reside in South Africa… and if you continue to enjoy reasonable health, then it is unlikely that you will consider downsizing and moving into retirement accommodation. The immortality Syndrome inoculation is probably still active and effective n your system! However… some lifestyle changes which may influence your decision are as follows:


The death of a spouse or partner

If one spouse dies, leaving the other alone in a large house – this may start to raise questions as to whether continuing to live alone is wise. (On the basis that God, loving men more, invariably takes them sooner, wives are more likely to face this question). The now unnecessarily large house requires both money and energy to maintain. If health issues arise in respect of one spouse, than this too, will generate interest in respect of whether having Frail Care at least available, would not be wise?


The emigration of close family

Your children emigrate, or your son-in-law accepts a position in ‘Blikkies Dorp’ in a remote section of the Western Cape, and they are consequently no longer able to monopolize your TV and partake of your drinks and snacks every week-end; they now only visit once a year. Perhaps it’s time to move from this convenience stop-over venue. Children who emigrate suffer from guilt at having abandoned their parents in Africa. The guilt encourages them to persuade their ‘abandoned’ parents to move into secure retirement accommodation. (And this is a whole new topic, in spite of your advancing years, never allow your children, no matter how well meaning, to make this decision for you. Never allow them to take over your life. It’s your decision! It’s your life… so live it! Don’t abrogate the responsibility of making lifestyle decisions to a generation who think that the cacophony that passes for modern music, is comparable to what you enjoyed in your younger days; who think that the way to make friends is to invite them on face book!)



You retire from work… so you think that perhaps now is the time to move into retirement accommodation? Yes, it may – but you could of course have moved into a secure village, even while you continued to work. Retirement Village life is not like moving to Heaven (Actually sometimes it feels just the opposite!) Life goes on and many people continue to follow their careers, even from their new places of abode.


Financial considerations

Your decision may be based on financial concerns i.e you may find living on a large property expensive, and having done the calculations, may have worked out that downsizing and moving into retirement accommodation may be financially beneficial.



You may just be lonely! And your decision may be motivated by friends and relatives, who themselves having moved into a Retirement Village may be encouraging you to join them.


At this stage, perhaps it would be wise to sit down with you partner and write down exactly why you are considering a move; what the motivation is? And as part of this process, it might be wise to detail as many of the pros and cons as you both can think of. (And don’t just talk – listen to each other!)



I recently had the following experience; my  brother in law had a boat and often went to Midmar Dam, where friends and family regularly joined him on waterskiing excursions – as a result, when it came time for him to seek retirement accommodation, he was keen to move to Howick (which was of course close to the Dam). I reminded him that given his advancing years, he may not always be able to actively engage in water Sports. Once that day arrived… where would that leave him? Not only up to the creek without a paddle, but without a boat and outboard motor as well!


In making important retirement decisions the following factors need to be considered: While the advice that we should ’live in the now’, may be pertinent in our active years (and I am sure assists in keeping us healthier for longer), in our retirement years we should perhaps ‘live in the if and when! … asking ourselves questions such as how will I maintain my mobility if I have to give up driving? Or with increasing age, when one of us finds ourselves unable to climb the stairs, how will we access the upstairs bedroom?



The adage ‘position, position, position’ frequently touted around by estate agents, is never truer than when applied to retirement accommodation. One would not wish to move into a village only to discover that in a few years time, shack-dwellers have taken up residence next door, and the neighbourhood has deteriorated; has become so unsafe – that you are no longer even able to leave the security of the fenced in village, to enjoy an afternoons walk – and have become a prisoner in your retirement haven. Sadly at this stage, you will be unlikely to be able to up roots and start again. Especially in South Africa, position is key!


Village security

Choose a facility which has an unblemished reputation as far as security is concerned. And always bear in mind that an electric perimeter fence is no guarantee of resident safety – it is only the start! In South Africa, security is an ongoing responsibly and it is your responsibility! And it is probably little use asking the Village sales team how safe their Village is… The local newspaper is probably a safer source of info.


Continuing social support…

And then there are your social networks. It may be wise not to move too far away from your church, bowling club or other social group that you and you wife particularly enjoy. You may not be able to drive forever; and sadly our country is not likely to ever develop reliable public transport systems…. a situation exacerbated by long distances. Don’t abandon social networks that may have taken a lifetime to build


The importance of real friends

Mabel, a close friend from childhood has recently moved to a retirement village and is encouraging you to follow suit. Providing she does not prematurely kick the bucket; and your friendship endures, this could be a reasonable move. Relatives are often a different kettle of fish so always bear the old adage in mind – whilst you are able to choose your friends, you cannot choose your relatives. Be wary!


Pursuing your passions

You should ideally seek a facility which allows you to continue indulging in your passion; one which is close enough to shops, to your church; to important family members and friends – to allow you to remain in contact and commute, even when you are no longer able to drive a vehicle. But most importantly ideally select a locale which allows you to continue indulging in your hobbies / interests. If for example, you are an avid fisherman, it may not be sensible to retire to a facility in the middle of the Kalahari.



Read the small print. Remember we now live far longer than we expect to (or perhaps may even wish to); this can create shortfalls in your later years. And always bear in mind that the increasing levies and possible additional Care Centre costs will eventually be far more onerous than your initial capital outlay… it is these which may eventually determine how cash-strapped you become. Affordability is a key factor in your decision.


Moving closer to your children?

Yes – but which one? Make no mistake, whichever one you select will be the wrong one, and will result in filial resentment and friction.


Maintaining mobility and accessibility to essential services

Always bear in mind that one day you may no longer be able to drive. At that stage, would you be willing to surrender you transport needs to the generosity of others; to rely on others to ferry you around. For example, if you have consulted one GP for the last 40 years – at this stage of your life, do you really wish to change; to start again with a new modern practitioner, who instead of interacting with you personally, enters your answers to diagnostic questions on a computer? Or, if you have been going for regular oncology consultations at Albert Luthuli Hospital, would it be sensible to move to a Retirement Village 250 Kms distant. Just because it has a Spa or they serve good cappuccinos in the Hospital canteen?


The utopian holiday setting

The fact that 35 years ago you engaged in activities such as sky-diving or Polo-Crosse, is scant reason to choose a retirement estate adjacent to an airfield or equestrian centre; rather choose a location appropriate to your contemporary needs (or perhaps more appropriately… your abilities?)


And finally, there is … Just plain ‘gut feel!’

While one should never allow factual considerations to be supplanted by emotional cues… Don’t ignore ‘gut feel ‘entirely! The gift of instinct has a purpose – use it… but not to make finite decisions! Rather make use of it as a casting vote in situations where your decision-making process is in a state of impasse! And in the process, always remember two important things…

There are no free lunches; and if it doesn’t feel right – then it probably isn’t!