Getting Older? Be Careful Where You Decide to Live

older couple house

My wife and I love life in the suburbs. There’s a certain peace and tranquility in escaping from the hustle and bustle of New York City, not to mention the bonus of cheaper square footage. I know we’re not alone in our love for these areas. Today more than 50% of Americans live in the suburbs, and a new study out this week has found that number may be surging thanks to movement of those over 65.  

The study looked at Canadian data about where seniors lived at several points in the ’90s and 2000s. What they found was that individuals over 65 were moving to the suburbs rather than into the city. This surprised the researchers, who assumed that older individuals would choose to move into the city where more options are available for those who have trouble getting around.

While the study wasn’t done in America, I think we’re more similar to our Northern neighbors than we care to admit. As I said, I love life in the suburbs, but the trend concerns me. As the researchers point out, life can be limited outside of the city for those who are less mobile. Losing the ability to drive can be like a jail sentence in the suburbs: Without transportation, you really can’t go anywhere. This was really brought home to me by another piece of research that shows just how pedestrian-unfriendly our country has become.

Whatever local governments may searchsay, most of our roads are designed with cars in mind. Time and again I’ve seen sidewalks that lead nowhere and bike lanes with inconsistent coverage. Being without a car in most places in the US means staying at home, carpooling or putting yourself at risk on the road shoulder.

The reason this concerns me is that I talk all the time about getting at least 20-30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day, ideally with friends. That’s easy if you’ve got a park nearby or if you can drive somewhere nice, but if you’re stuck at home without a car, staying healthy can become a serious challenge. Here are a few of my suggestions for those of you in this or similar situations.

First, if you’re in the early stages of thinking about moving, make sure you take your health into consideration. With the right lifestyle steps, you can keep yourself feeling young and healthy long into your twilight years. But sometimes no matter how hard you work, age catches up with you. For that, you want to make sure the essentials are close by. Try to have a grocery store, park, bank and community center of some kind close by, regardless of what location you choose. While it’s good to be close to a doctor’s office, sometimes community centers will bring in these types of resources on a periodic basis.

If you’ve already found your dream home, but you’re far from the resources I just mentioned, it’s time to make friends with your neighbors. Knowing people in your community helps build a support network willing to help at the drop of a hat if something happens. Finding a ride with someone who lives next door is a lot easier if you’re already friends. Several studies have also shown that the more social connected you are, the longer you tend to live.

For those of you already isolated in suburbia, the above still applies. Fortunately, I’ve got a whole bunch of at-home workouts you can do in your living room or, better yet, in your backyard. Check out my No Excuses series as well as the videos I did with Shaun T. And if that’s not enough, I’ve put together a whole page of resources for you to use to stay fit.

There are always workarounds to life’s drawbacks. The key is identifying them in advance and setting up plans for future success. Knowing what’s available in your community and planning accordingly will keep you healthy and connected to those you care about.