Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Staying Put

For many years it was a growing 'tradition' for older people whose family had grown and moved away to, upon retirement, do the same themselves. To give up what had been their home for many years -- the place, often, where they had raised their families -- and to move elsewhere -- often to a "retirement community."  Frankly I was surprised to read that that trend seemed to be reversing. -That many older people are now choosing, instead, to stay put.

Bloomberg News posted an article whose title captured the change, and its effect on society: "Baby Boomers Who Refuse to Sell Are Dominating the Housing Market." From the point of view of younger people this change was hardly a positive one.  Housing for young families in some areas is getting increasingly short. Indeed the article focused on one younger man who has of late been spending his free time canvasing entire neighborhoods in search of somebody -- anybody! -- who is willing to sell. That so he can have a home to call his own. A foundation on which to build his future life.

Responses to his appeal have been vigorous and, in every case so far, negative.

Said one older house owner "“I wouldn’t sell even if you gave me $2 million — this is my retirement. If you gave me a bag of money, I wouldn’t sell.”

The reason, given by another such older home owner, was stark and clear. Said he: “This neighborhood still has the soul of the past. Everybody I know — people older than me — wouldn’t move from here for nothing unless they couldn’t afford it no more.”

I don't know that I'd personally say "no" to two million dollars, if offered that for my home and property, but the reasoning those two individuals expressed -- and those of several others mentioned in the article -- rang true to me.  I, as apparently have they, thought it through. I've evaluated a wide range of options. And decided to stay put.

Indeed my wife Jan and I did this together. With much care and focused purpose.  And, be it for similar reasons as others of our generation, or, perhaps, just our own, we have decided to stay.

The "whys" of this are many.  Here, from our personal perspective, are a few of them:

We are where we wish to be.

In the end that is the most salient reason.  Jan and my life together has not largely been an "oh, whatever..." affair.  We've from the start had goals and aspirations -- goals and aspirations we have lived for. Focused upon. Striven for. Sacrificed to reach.  Thus our living where we live did not come about by mere happenstance.  It is a location -- a home -- a community -- of our choosing. One based on what we are as people. -Upon our own shared, but also individual, needs.

Quietude, privacy and peace are to us essential elements of a happy and contented life. Being able to be ourselves, with little need to answer to others -- and to remain unaffected by other's equally genuine and equally personal choices and preferences.

In a sense this is not too different from the comment of one of the elderly home owners quoted above when they spoke of their neighborhood still having the "soul of the past." In their case there seemed to be an ethnic community aspect.  But underneath the specifics of what they personally valued their desire was not unlike our own: To live in a place where they/we feel comfortable.  Where one's own likes and dislikes -- and personal level of comfort -- remained paramount.

For Jan and I that "community" is in a certain sense a community of two.  But it is still a community -- one with deeply held values. -Values that in many respects differ from the greater world around us.

Another reason for staying put -- how mundane! -- is simple dollars and sense.

Yes, "sense."  Evaluated, not by commonly accepted "truths" such as "living is less expensive elsewhere," but a personal evaluation of where we'd be financially and otherwise if we should up and move.

We have for many years invested everything, or pretty close to everything, in our home and property.  That with the goal of making it exactly what we wished it to be.  And the fact is that much of that investment is non-transferable.

The large, gorgeous, porch. Rebuilt from the ground up at great cost. The home's Great Room with its large fireplace -- and room aplenty for Jan's baby grand piano, a billiard table and a bar. My personal sanctum -- a library loft with comfortable leather seating surrounded by my books and personal mementos. The home theater -- carefully designed, styled, and created with hours and hours of work -- and providing us the real theater experience in sound and picture, but without the sticky floors and endless whispering that makes the commercial movie house often less than a complete joy no matter how good "the picture."

And beauty.  Acres of it. Diverse and ever changing beauty. -There to be enjoyed outside, or through any of the house's many windows -- including the virtual glass wall that allows us to look out onto a small meadow full of life when first opening our eyes on each new day.

Then there's the larger "neighborhood."  A true "art town."  Not "arty" in the superficial, trendy, Hollywood sense, but a place of real, stable and mature creativity.  One built up many years ago on the three pillars of the MacDowell Colony, the Mariarden and the Laughton Camp/Out-Door Players -- the later of which property and main house is now what we call "home."

Could any of above be found anew?  And if so, at what cost? In money, yes, but even more in time, attention and expended energy?

Take the supposed (and in some ways real) "lower cost of living" in other areas -- and then add into the equation the cost of moving. -Of paying a real estate agent's seller's fees. Of again setting up a home, if not from scratch, then as close to that as neccasary to make the fittings "right" for the place. A new place. Likely a very different sort of place.

Add to that that such "lower cost of living" most often comes with a different price:  A less desirable location. One without such things as "the arts." One without a long standing (and still existent) culture of its own. A barren field without strong, tall, trees -- if not literally, than figuratively.

So for all these reason we are staying put.  As are, it seems, many others of our generation.

"Selfish"?  Perhaps.  But in the end isn't all life so?  Grasping for the sun. With the deep roots needed to grab up all the water needed to live and to thrive.

So, yes, we are staying put. For as long as possible. Be it as now, on our own, or later, if needed, perhaps with a little loving help.



  1. Pretty convincing.....
    Of course the bottom line for all of us'old' folks is ... As long as we can

  2. Yup. Along with "as long as we are." ;-)


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