One of the more interesting aspects of retirement is deciding on a place to settle down. Traditionally, people have tended to stay where they’ve always lived; in the past several decades, retirees in colder climates have gravitated toward warmer climates. These days, anything goes; with most new retirees looking forward to decades of active living, retirees can follow their interests and begin new lives wherever those interests lead them.
Single retirees have a unique set of criteria in selecting a retirement destination. And they are not alone. In the United States, some 30 million Americans aged 55 and older are single.
The majority of the 55-and-older set in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (52 percent) are single; in Florence, South Carolina, single seniors make up 49 percent of the total senior population. Both of these small cities hold numerous attractions for retirees. Other small cities in which the single senior population (over 55 years of age) makes up at least 45 percent of the total senior population include Vineland, New Jersey; Springfield, Massachusetts; Jackson, Mississippi; Eureka, California; and Columbus, Georgia. Large cities meeting the same criterion include Memphis, New Orleans, and even Miami-Fort Lauderdale, which boasts nearly half a million single senior women and a quarter of a million single senior men.
Major Concerns for Single Seniors
What specific concerns do single seniors have, moving to a new location? If they anticipate making new circles of friends, most singles want to avoid situations where the people they are most likely to meet are already paired off. For the most part, retirees are gracious and welcoming, but there’s no getting around the fact that having four married couples over for dinner plus one single can be awkward. The host may encourage the single to bring a date, or will actively try to pair the single up with another single acquaintance, but it may just as well happen that the single is not invited.
On the positive side, single seniors may have it easier in finding a suitable retirement destination, as a single person does not need to compromise. As a single, you can head straight for a destination that offers the most activities that you personally enjoy. And, in your enthusiasm, you are likely to meet up with a match who shares your passion for those activities.
Certainly, finding a destination with a large percentage of senior singles is a step in the right direction; there are likely to be more activities geared toward single seniors, and you’ll have more opportunities to date and find romance, if that’s one of your intentions. But there are other criteria you might look to, to help in making a decision.
Generally, bigger places are better than smaller places. Small communities often have more rigid social structures, which can be hard to crack into; larger towns and cities will have a larger pool of singles to mix with.
Look for communities with lots of different activities, both outdoor activities and cultural events. Even if you hone in on activities that are of specific interest to you, your interests may change. Or, if you have a passion for art and engage yourself with local galleries, you may discover a much more active senior singles scene participating in weekend bicycle tours. Allow yourself some flexibility.
College towns can be ideal for senior singles. Make sure that the local university actively encourages adult education, and gives senior discounts for degree programs if you want to pursue further education. Find a campus with a good mix of young people, adult students, and retirees, all engaged together. More and more universities offer various programs for adults and seniors, so you can afford to be choosy. If you intend to pursue a degree or certification, don’t settle for a distance program; get on campus, where you’ll interact with people of all ages.
Avoid the suburbs. Like small towns, suburban communities often have established social scenes that are hard to crack into. Suburban neighborhoods can also be isolating and alienating; it can be hard to meet your neighbors. If you opt for a larger urban area, move into a residential area in the city itself, where you can easily walk to a market or bookstore. Cities can be alienating too; you need to be proactive and outgoing. But at least, closer to downtown, you’ll be that much closer to the action. You can always move out to the suburbs once you get older, and once you’ve paired up again with a new spouse or partner.
If you’re already part of a tight clique of single friends of the same approximate age, think about retiring together, to the same community or even sharing a house together. Many baby boomers are already accustomed to communal living, from college days or as young adults; a houseful of 60-year-olds may have a harder time adjusting to each other’s habits than a houseful of 20-year-olds, but otherwise the situation wouldn’t be much different. There’s always the danger that a longstanding group of friends will continue to rely too heavily on each other for company, but you may also serve to egg each other on with respect meeting new people — specifically, dating new people.
There are many things to consider. But a single senior who has perhaps fallen into a rut in the run-up to retirement can find new life in the postretirement years. It will take initiative on your part, but the resources are all there, and you’re certainly not alone.