The Third Age

With people living now having a life expectancy of about 30 years longer than in the last century, we have a whole new period of life not possible in previous generations. Dr. William Sadler calls this 30-year life bonus ‘The Third Age’.

1st Age, PREPARATION – Childhood/Adolescence – prepares us for life, developing skills to become independent

2nd Age, ACHIEVEMENT – Career/Family – focus on security, status, belonging

3rd Age, FULFILLMENT – begins when advancement and status become less important, typically done raising family, have more wisdom and self-awareness and shift focus from achievement to fulfillment

4th Age, COMPLETION – the last years of life, this period is also longer than in earlier generations

Crossing the Freedom Threshold

A study by Merrill Lynch refers to a significant shift which occurs about age 61. The study refers to this change as “crossing the freedom threshold”… when advancement and status become less important and your focus shifts from achievement to fulfillment. This is the time to translate your values, gifts, dreams and passions into new opportunities that give your life meaning and authenticity.

I remember a woman who was at a seminar I co-led a number of years ago who said she had retired and had this list of things she was excited to do, things she thought would take years to accomplish. Well, two years had passed and she had done everything on her list… she was ready to figure out what’s next!

Working your way through a time of mid-life transition is like exploring foreign territory without a map to get there! Some people create their own map… and some find it helpful to work with a life coach as a creative partner on the journey.

 Creative Third Age Transitions… start by asking ‘Who am I, really?’

  • Clarify your values – what is really important to you? values are priorities that tell you how to spend your time
  • Discover your gifts – think about what you can’t help but give away… not things, but what you always find yourself doing in spite of what you ‘should’ be doing… we often de-value our gifts because they seem so easy to us
  • Explore your dreams – do you have dreams still waiting to be fulfilled? close your eyes and picture yourself floating in a hot air balloon to your dream life… look down… what do you see? where are you? what are you doing? who is with you?
  • Acknowledge your passions – what makes you come alive? when I work with buyers I can usually tell when they find the right house for them because their faces light up and their eyes sparkle… what makes you light up and forget about time?

Creating a Life Plan

You may have a financial plan so you feel you are ready for retirement. But don’t neglect also creating a life plan. Some people prefer to work with a life coach… some prefer to do it themselves. Here are some questions to help you get started. Always keep in mind the three essentials for happiness: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

  • Do you want to make changes in your lifestyle?
    • If so, what changes do you want to make?
    • Can location/neighborhood help you make those changes?
    • What about the style of your home?
  • Where will you live?
    • Downsize/cross-size?
    • Move to a place you have always dreamed of?
    • Move to a retirement community?
    • Spend time in multiple places?
    • If you move…
      • What will you miss?
      • What will you be happy to say good-bye to?
      • What will you look forward to in your new home?
      • What makes a place feel like you could willingly waste your time in it?
  • What will you do?
    • Will you work?
    • Will you volunteer? Where, what kind, what end goal?
    • Will you help with family? Parents, children, grandkids, other?
    • Will you travel? Visit places, family, friends? Short-term, long-term stays?
    • Will you study? Learn something new, teach?
    • What have you always wanted to do but never had the time?

As you make plans for the next stage of your life, whatever that may be, never lose sight of who you really are. Use your values, gifts, dreams and passions as a benchmark against which to measure how you spend your life. We can get so distracted and influenced by the world around us that we may forget what is really important to us…what nurtures our souls and keeps us ‘alive’.

Soul Searching for Retirement Couples

Many couples have different ideas about what their lives will be like in retirement. Be sure to get both your dreams out on the table separately… then discuss them together. It can be like falling in love all over again!

Time and place are often the two biggest decisions… and it’s rarely a black-and white issue. In fact, sometimes there is something much deeper going on than just deciding when and where to retire. Put everything on the table before making any decisions, including ‘trying on’ different lifestyles before making an actual move.

Here are some tips:

  • Understand your goals… individual and united goals drive everything else
  • Think of retirement as an exciting time for couples on the other side of the life circle, ‘after’ children and careers rather than ‘before’… a wonderful time to re-discover life together and embark on new adventures
  • If you have different people/places that make you happy, consider living apart for part of the year
  • Research different areas, then rent a place in each of them for at least two weeks to get a feel for the place and how you will both like it
  • Consider whether you want (or can afford a second home)… will you keep your original home first and sell it later?
  • How will children, grandchildren, parents impact your decisions?

Why Baby Boomers Plan to Move

Although many Baby Boomers plan to continue working and stay living where they are, two-thirds of retirees say they are likely to move at least once during retirement for a variety of reasons. Some plan to stay in the same or nearby communities, but about half are planning to move to a different state.

Their reasons are as varied as they are…

  • Moving closer to family… children, parents, grandchildren, extended family
  • Moving to live in their ‘dream’ destination’
  • Downsizing or cross-sizing for changing space and accessibility needs
  • Moving to eliminate a mortgage
  • Moving to a location with a lower cost of living, including lower heating and cooling costs, lower taxes
  • Move to an area with a good fit for new desired lifestyle
  • Moving to a better climate
  • Moving for a new sense of community… learning, creating, serving, sharing, culture, simplicity
  • Moving to a location with better/more accessible health care

Baby Boomers have always been ones to jump in and experience new things and retirement moves are no different. Of all the reasons for moving, however, the one with the strongest pull is that of family… often creating a boomerang effect.

Moving Closer to Family… some things to consider before you pack up and move

Moving to be closer to family and grandchildren is the biggest reason Baby Boomers relocate, and it can also serve a double purpose… grandparents can help their children/grandchildren now… and those same kids/grandkids can help their parents/grandparents when the time comes.

It might feel like the right decision, but before you sell your home, pack up and move here are some things to consider…

  • Why are you moving? Is it really to be close to family or is that just an excuse for something else? Know the real reason for your move.
  • Does your family want you to move close to them? If so, do you also really want to move or are you moving out of guilt? Both you AND your family should look forward to your move.
  • Do you expect to help your children with child care? Transportation? Other household needs? If so, are there mutual expectations of how much help you will be giving? Are you prepared to keep your mouth shut when you don’t agree with parenting styles? Set guidelines for what is expected before you make the move.
  • Do you expect help from your children with your personal needs? Again, set guidelines for what is expected before you make the move.
  • Does the community you are moving to fit your lifestyle? Will you be able to build your own network of new friends and interests? Don’t expect your family to be your whole life.
  • What will you miss when you move? Of course you should expect to miss some friends, activities, community… but also look forward to something new. Knowing what you will miss can give you ideas on how to get connected in your new community.

Living close to family can be a wonderful thing… but if you move closer to them it can be important not to overwhelm your family by expecting too much from them… and they too much from you. It is vital that you maintain and respect each other’s personal space and private lives as well as enjoying your time together. In looking for a new home in your new community look for a place where you can also build a life and friendships separate from your family.

If it feels right, seize the opportunity… there is nothing that can equal the joy of being close enough to spend ordinary days with your family. In the words of Laura Ingalls Wilder, “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”

Multi-Generational Living

With longer lifespans the Sandwich Generation is more ‘real’ than ever, with many Baby Boomers helping both aging parents and adult children and grandchildren. There are many reasons why your aging parents may move in and your adult children may move back to the family home, but when it happens it is important to establish some ground rules so YOU don’t end up wanting to move out!

Establish who is responsible for what

  • Who pays for what
  • Who is responsible for things such as…
    • Household shopping
    • Cooking
    • Cleaning
    • Laundry
    • Household maintenance
    • Snow and lawn care
    • Child/elder care

Respect each other

  • Let others know when you are coming and going so they don’t worry
  • Don’t ask someone else to do something you aren’t willing to do
  • Don’t judge the way another person lives
  • Don’t tell someone else how to do their job (i.e. parenting, working, living)

Respect different schedules

  • Identify ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces, and keep them that way
  • Don’t subject your housemates to your tastes in music, scents, friends
  • Keep lines of communication open
  • Express concerns with love and respect in a timely manner rather than letting them fester
  • Seek to solve problems rather than assign blame
  • Set regular family council meetings as a time to discuss what is and isn’t working

The bottom line is, approach every aspect of living together with love, respect and understanding… and the desire to make things work.

Signs it is time to downsize

Thinking it might be time to downsize but you’re not quite sure? If the thought of downsizing makes you leap for joy at the prospect, it may be time. Here are some other signs…

  1. The main reason for staying is figuring out what to do with your stuff if you move
  2. You are not doing things you want to do because of costs and obligations associated with staying in your home
  3. The only time you are in your yard is when you are mowing it
  4. You are ready to be done cleaning rooms that only collect dust and ‘stuff’
  5. You are concerned about stairs being an obstacle for you or someone else you care about
  6. You would like to live closer to your children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, friends, other family members
  7. You dream of living in… (FILL IN THE BLANK!)
  8. Your friends have already moved on
  9. You know there are some major maintenance issues coming up in the next few years that you don’t want to deal with
  10. You are closing off parts of your home to save on utility costs
  11. You want more freedom to travel and do ‘fun stuff’
  12. You do the Snoopy dance when you hear what your home could sell for in this seller’s market… it’s payback time!

Things to Consider Before You Downsize

So it might seem like it is time for you to downsize. But before you jump in and decide to sell your home and make a move, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Will it help you financially? Does it matter?

It is easy to think that selling and moving to a smaller home will result in saving money… but that isn’t always the case. Smaller isn’t necessarily cheaper… you may not get as much as you expected from selling your current home, and your new home may cost more than you were expecting. Monthly expenses may not go down as much as you expect. Before making a decision to move meet with a Realtor to assess how much you can realistically expect to net from the sale of your current home… AND go window shopping for a new home to see how much you can expect to pay for what you want… does the move make financial sense? Even if you don’t end up saving money it can still make sense to move depending on your priorities but make the move with an awareness of how it will affect your finances.

  1. Are you ready for the emotional pain of dismantling your life?

It’s hard work sorting through everything you have accumulated over the years. Although it can be very liberating and cathartic, it is also often overwhelming. Sometimes children have big objections to selling the home where they grew up. They may be in transition themselves and have a hard time dealing with yet another change in their lives. What about your lifestyle? Successful downsizers are usually ready for the adventure of something new for the next phase of their lives. If you love your current lifestyle and having all your stuff around you, downsizing could be a painful experience… you could miss your old lifestyle and stuff.

  1. Choose a place that fits the lifestyle you want for the next phase of your life

Do you want to maintain your current lifestyle, just in a smaller space, different location? Maybe your next home isn’t even smaller, it’s just arranged differently so there aren’t as many steps, there is more room and easier access for children, parents, grandchildren to gather. Think not only about the space itself, but about what is around it… what do you want to be doing, do you plan to spend most of your time at home or elsewhere? Are you looking for a home where you can age in place, or do you plan another move when that becomes a necessity?

  1. Allow for some personal space

Especially if you are a couple downsizing for retirement, you will likely be spending more time together than ever before… and in a smaller space. Think about ‘getaway’ space for each of you. It doesn’t have to be big, but you should each have at least a personal corner where you can go to have some time alone to relax, recharge and focus on what gives you personal satisfaction.

  1. What will you do if you don’t like your new home? Give yourself permission to change your mind

Recognize that it is possible you may not be thrilled with your new home, especially if you are moving to a new community far from your current social network. Hopefully you will build new friendships and develop your interests… that might be precisely why you are moving. However, don’t feel you are a failure if you find you miss your old community and want to move back after living in your dream destination for a while. The ‘boomerang’ effect doesn’t just happen with children moving back home… I have also experienced it fairly often with retired adults. They move away to their ideal retirement destination only to find they miss being close to family and longtime friends… and end up coming back. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it… but don’t feel like you have failed if you decide to come back, you will have just broadened your experiences. When you buy you should always be thinking about resale… if you decide to move again, will your new home be easy to sell? Will you financially be able to do so?

Know Where You Are Going

It doesn’t matter if you are downsizing or upsizing… moving across town or across country… selling a home is one of the most traumatic experiences in most people’s lifetimes. It can also be one of the most exciting times, filled with the promise of new experiences and new beginnings.

Although it isn’t always an option to buy before you sell, when it is possible it can help smooth the whole transition process… looking ahead to your new home can bring excitement into the bittersweet letting go of your current home.

And if you can’t buy before you sell, at least having a sense of the neighborhood and what your next home will be like can help.

As you look ahead, don’t think so much about downsizing as right-sizing for the way you actually live… or choose to live after you move.

Right-Sizing for the Way You Live

When Baby Boomers talk about downsizing, often what they really mean is ‘right-sizing’ for the way they actually live. Right-sizing is about more than just square footage and number of bedrooms/bathrooms.

Right-sizing can mean a smaller carbon footprint, or living in a more walkable neighborhood so you aren’t so dependent on your car… or having a yard or home you aren’t responsible for maintaining.

But right-sizing can also mean more square footage… or re-arranging your square footage to fit how you actually live.

Rather than thinking about the rooms you want, think about how you actually live and think flexible space. Be careful not to buy a home to fit your ‘stuff’… and also not to buy a home for once-a-year family gatherings. You could spend a lot of money (both initial investment and ongoing costs) on space you rarely use.

Think functionality rather than size actually using all the space in your home on a regular basis. This could mean a move… or it could simply mean re-configuring the space you already have to suit your lifestyle.

Universal design is a big consideration for many not just for Baby Boomers thinking about aging in place, but also for people in all generations thinking about welcoming people of all ages and physical conditions into their homes.

Don’t Go It Alone

So you have a plan… now what? Put together a team to help you move forward. Family and friends can provide great support when needed, but often the best place to start is choosing a Realtor to help guide you through the process and become the hub that connects you with other resources that fit your unique situation. Realtors like us who work on a regular basis with people who are downsizing have resources to help you… just ask.

CONTACT US… we would love to meet with you for a no-cost consultation to discuss how we can be of help.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – Life Transitions Realtor

The HomesMSP Team – SharleneJohnAngela – Twin Cities Realtors



About Sharlene Hensrud

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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