On retiring – where to move to?

And then there is the … ‘where to move to question?’ I recently had the following experience; my brother-in-law owned a boat and he 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 closer to the Dam). I reminded him that given his advancing years, he may not always be able to actively engage in water sports. And once that day arrived… where would that leave him; literally up the creek without a paddle, and perhaps without a boat and outboard motor as well!

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 how’ era?… 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 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 moved in 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 afternoon strolls; that you have become a prisoner in your retirement haven. Sadly at this stage it may be too late to up root 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 life-time 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 – to join her. Providing she does not prematurely kick the bucket; and your friendship endures, this could be a reasonable move. Relatives however 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 affordability problems in 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 your transport needs to the generosity of others; to rely on others to ferry you around. For example, if you have consulted with one specific 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 into a diagnostic questions software programme 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 care centre 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!

Henry Spencer