Aging: Castaway on Elderly Island

Today’s retirees are heading abroad to live in search of adventure, companionship and new horizons

Aging: Castaway on Elderly Island

Today’s retirees are heading abroad to live in search of adventure, companionship and new horizons

There’s no place like home. But maybe a different home appeals at different stages of your life? Indeed, a growing number of people are spending their sunset years in a different house, state or even country, lured by better weather, cheaper living costs and improved quality of life.

A survey by Bankrate, a consumer financial services firm, found that 50% of American men and women between the ages of 50-64 would like to relocate to another city or state in retirement; or 20% of those aged 65 and older. With wealth, health and educational expansion at their disposal, many retirees are retiring abroad as part of a lifestyle migration (O’Reilly and Benson).

Changing expectations among graying baby boomers are fuelling the trend. No longer satisfied with settling down close to family, friends and the community where they established roots, the over 65s are seeking entertainment and activity.
“Both the current and next generation of retirees is seeking three things in retirement, regardless of location or type of home. They want active, intellectually stimulating, and – perhaps most importantly – intergenerational retirement environments,” says Andrew Carle, professor and founding director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Remaining intellectually challenged is often crucial to retirement destination choice, alongside opportunities for learning and cultural pursuits. Many US retirees are opting to move to college retirement communities, where they can take lifelong learning courses, mentor college students and study for a degree. There are about 60 such communities in the US, such as those near Stanford, Notre Dame and Penn State.

“What we need to realize is that retirees don’t want to be separated from the rest of society; they want to be part of it,” continues Carle. “Probably the biggest mistake we’ve made in retirement is that we have built tens of thousands of ‘elderly islands,’ which segregate our oldest individuals from the rest of the world,” he explains.

The Boomer generation will not accept being shifted out of the way.Andrew Carle
“Many of these are beautiful, multimillion dollar facilities, but a bird in a gilded cage is still caged. The boomer generation has never considered itself old and will not accept being shifted out of the way. So we need to make sure there is age diversity within whatever environment they reside.”

But an academic retirement is only one of many options available. For the more adventurous, niche retirement lifestyles abound, says Carle. The old and bold can pick from, for starters, a gated condo-community for Indian-Americans called ShantiNiketan; the Burbank Senior Artists Colony; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities such as Fountain Grove Lodge; living with a non-romantic roommate such as the Golden Girls Network; or living in an recreational vehicle or motor home (as more than a million Americans do).


Intellectual and cultural requirements aside, what about geography? Where is this new generation of graying Americans spending their latter years? Florida remains the retirement mecca.

Overall, 19.1% of the Sunshine State’s population is 65 and older, the highest percentage in the nation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s population estimates. And 25 warm places in Florida dominate the top 100 list of best places in the US to retire on website. Arizona is another popular choice.

But why Florida and Arizona? The low cost of housing and property taxes are important factors in selecting a place to retire according to, followed by income taxes, estate taxes and then sales and personal property taxes.

But a shared sense of community among similar aged people is also important, according to tourism expert Kathleen Andereck, associate dean of the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University. Many retirement communities in both Florida and Arizona offer a robust system for newcomers. And in addition, there are the quality-of-life amenities such as community centers and senior centers in both states where people can gather socially or take classes, she says.


While older Americans hurry to Florida and Arizona, aging Europeans plan to head to Spain if they move abroad. According to a survey by human capital firm Aon Hewitt, called Europe’s Retirement Challenge, nearly 20% of Europeans surveyed say that they would like to retire to Spain. This is in addition to the 88% of Spanish nationals who plan to retire in their home country.

Spain is particularly popular for Brits: a quarter of the estimated 3.2 million UK adults planning to retire in Europe want to move to Spain, according to Saga, a UK company focusing on the over 50s. France, with 17%, is the second most popular choice for UK retirees. Germans, meanwhile, are pursuing la dolce vita: nearly 250,000 German pensioners live in Italy, followed by 150,000 in Spain, according to Ralf Himmelreicher, sociology professor at Free University, Berlin.
“Transnational migration in later life has become an option for many citizens in developed countries,” says Himmelreicher. “And transnational aging connected to Germany has increased in the last 20 years and probably will in the future.”

Extending the European Union has simplified migration between EU Member States. This has not only allowed workers to move more freely between countries, but also old age social security claimants.

But those Europeans wishing to head abroad need to pay attention to financial details, such as exchange rates, local tax laws and pension arrangements, as well as the benefits of better weather conditions and cheaper property, warns Saga. Countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) enjoy an agreement allowing state pensions to rise with inflation. But in those countries outside the EEA, such as the ever-popular destinations of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, your state pension is frozen.
In fact, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are not only expensive countries for nascent retirees, they are also restrictive. Retirees need to comply with conditions, such as having children living there or being prepared to care for a sick relative, for example, to qualify to be allowed in. But as lifespans increase, so do the retirement horizons.

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