The lure of the long-distance grandchild: it’s a powerful draw that plays into the retirement living decisions of many seniors. But should retiring where your grandchildren live be the top consideration in your decision about where to live?

In previous generations, people often lived and died within a fairly small geographic area. Relatives lived near one another in almost a communal set-up where food was raised and prepared, children were attended to and taught, and the elderly were cared for by members of the extended family.

Now, in modern times, people often move far away from their parents once they reach adulthood, striking out on their own to pursue an education, a career, or a relationship. Yet the fact remains that it takes a village to raise children, and as a result, seniors who might not have considered moving closer to adult children may-well change their minds when that first grandbaby is born. But is it a wise decision to move to be closer to grown children or grandkids? There are many considerations that should be weighed.

Financial, emotional costs of relocating

According to a 2002 AARP study, 80 percent of the self-identified grandparents surveyed said it is important to live near their children and grandchildren. Yet for people approaching or into their golden years, it can take a great deal of courage to pull up stakes and start over in a new town at this stage in their lives, despite their dedication to their family. Leaving behind a well-established circle of friends can be difficult–not to mention leaving familiar surroundings and routines.

Moving can also be expensive. The costs of selling a house, paying movers, and getting settled in a new home can really add up. But on the flip side, frequent travel to visit far-away family is also costly…and many grandparents would say that creating bonds with their beloved grandchildren is priceless.
And then there are the grandparents who aren’t yet retired; for them, relocating to be near the grandkids simply may not be an option for several more years.

>> Related: The New York Times: Grandparents Who Move to Be Closer to Grandchildren

When making senior living decisions, it is crucial to make choices that work for us as individuals, but it is wise to factor in the opinions of family too.

Personal identity

We all have multiple roles that we play in life–interests, activities, and relationships that make us who we are. How do you prioritize your family? Is your role as grandparent a key element of who you are as a person–how you self-identify? Are you ready to take on a more active part with your grandkids or do you prefer it to be more of a peripheral role? Is it important to you to watch your grandchildren grow up, or do you think you would be satiated by seeing them on holidays and family trips? It’s imperative to be really honest with yourself about this topic before making a retirement living decision.

Similarly, if you do opt to make the move, it’s important to create your own life in your new location and not be totally dependent on your child/grandchild for your happiness. Consider volunteering, getting a part-time job, or joining a church or organization to expand your social circle.

Family dynamics

It’s time for a frank conversation: how do your adult children really feel about you moving closer to them? The prospect has the potential to dredge up unresolved issues between parents and grown children dating back decades. But on the other hand, the idea of having help may be a welcome relief to the exhausted parents of young children. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor found that as of 2006, in more than six million families with children ages 6 and younger, both parents were working outside the home. If Grandma and Grandpa move to town, the additional childcare/child transportation options may be a huge benefit and relief in the eyes of adult children.

Playdates, dinners, sporting and school events, babysitting–while this help with child-rearing can be good for the adult child (and their marriage), it also has the potential to start to feel obligatory to the grandparents. If moving closer to the grandchildren, it is wise to set clear roles and expectations with your adult child about who does what and how often or resentments can build as grandparents start to feel taken for granted.

>> Related: Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandma’s Retirement Community

Make a list

As with most things in life, retiring where your grandkids live will likely have pros and cons, so make your list! Here are a few points you may want to consider.

Pros of Retiring Where Your Grandchildren Live
• You would get the opportunity to see your grandchildren grow and be part of their lives; also, you’d see your adult child more often.
• You would be able to help your adult child juggle their career and child-rearing responsibilities.
• You’d be closer to your adult child if/when you eventually need a caregiver’s assistance with daily activities.
• Depending on the location, housing costs may be lower.
• You would have the needed support when your spouse/partner dies or if you become ill.

Cons of Retiring Where Your Grandchildren Live
• As mentioned above, relocating from a familiar place and long-time friends can be difficult (and expensive).
• If you didn’t get along with your children when they were young adults, moving closer probably won’t make it better. Recognize that your children may not want you to be so close.
• Your adult child’s career could require that they move a lot; are you ready to move multiple times to be near them?
• Your child’s location may not be geographically desirable to you, or it could have a more expensive cost of living.
• As the go-to babysitter, you might feel taken advantage of.
• If you want to be near the grandkids, but your partner doesn’t, it can create conflict.
• If you have multiple adult children living in different cities, it can feel like you are choosing favorites.

Other solutions to consider

If you aren’t sure if retiring to the town where your grandkids live is right for you, there are other options. Of course you can make a tradition of back and forth reciprocal visits, or consider spending part of the year there. Maybe they live in a warm climate, and you live in the arctic North–why not winter where the grandchildren are? Lots of families enjoy planning vacations together, perhaps renting a beach house that accommodates everyone. It can be a fun bonding experience! Or if you are the adventurous type, trips to the grandkids’ house in your motor home may be the best of both worlds for you in your retirement years!

>> Searching for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC of “life plan community”) near your grandkids? Check out our directory.

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