The Surprising Benefits of Residential Mobility in Retirement

Seniors Moving
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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

It is easy to believe that the majority of retirees relocate for retirement — move to Florida, take off for Mexico, buy a home on a golf course in Arizona or North Carolina. And, many prospective retirees definitely talk about it.

However, residential mobility is not the reality. In fact, the vast majority of retirees stay put. And residential mobility is becoming increasingly uncommon for all Americans.

Mobility has been steadily decreasing since a recent high in the 1980s. New research finds that today’s Americans who say that they intended to move are 45% less likely to have done so than people in the 1970s.

Staying put or aging in place is particularly true for retirees. According to AARP, only 29% of retirees plan to relocate for retirement. Sixty-seven percent want to stay in the community where they currently live, and 63% want to stay in their existing home as long as possible.

Let’s take a look at why, and the benefits of residential mobility.

Why Has Relocation and Mobility Stagnated?

Happy senior woman with her daughter
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Recent research published in American Psychologist looks at trends contributing to stagnation and the cultural dynamics of declining residential mobility.

The researchers believe that more and more people feel stuck. They say, “Americans, it seems, are finding themselves increasingly locked into places that they wish to escape.”

The following trends may be contributing to making relocation harder:

  • Housing prices
  • Red tape, especially regulations associated with occupational licensing requirements (According to the Niskanen Center, around 25% of American workers need a state license to do their job. And re-licensing in a new state can be costly and take a long time.)
  • Zoning restrictions that limit housing supply in desirable locations

According to researchers, wanting to — but feeling unable to move — leaves “people to wonder about whether their other efforts in life will be rewarded.” It leads to a defeatist approach to life.

The Benefits of Mobility

Happy senior couple
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The researchers write about possible psychological implications of staying put, which may be particularly interesting to an aging population whose members want to stay vital.

They theorize that there are negative cultural effects of residential stagnation and write that as mobility has gone down, levels of happiness, fairness, and trust among Americans have also gone down.

While the researchers do not have evidence that stagnation causes a decline in happiness, fairness, and trust, they see a correlation in the trends and believe that moving may be a forcing function that enables renewal and a cascade of positive rewards including:


When you move to a new location, you are forced to start fresh. In doing so you are defining yourself by your own personality traits, not by those you have surrounded yourself with.

And, being willing to consider relocating is a reflection of your ability to live life on your terms, finding the ideal locale and having the energy to take action on your dreams.

Financial Rewards

There is often a financial component to relocating — seeking a better job, higher pay, or a lower cost of living.

More Optimism and Risk-Taking

Relocating is often associated with being more optimistic. It takes a leap of faith to relocate.

Moving is a risk, which can be positive — no risk, no reward after all.

More Openness and Less Suspicious

When you relocate, you need to create new bonds, which can naturally make you more open and accepting of new people. When you stay put, you have an existing network of people that you know and trust, which is great, but it can also cause you to be less open to new ideas and different kinds of people.

Opt Into a Better Locale for Aging in Place

Most people want to stay as independent as possible for as long as possible. However, the family home may not be the best environment for old age. The AARP study found that of the people that want to move, 49% are looking for lower costs and a home that is easier to maintain.


Benefits of Staying Put

Senior couple using a tablet
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Existing Connections

Family and friends are everything. If you have a well-established network of folks whom you know and love and rely on, moving may be a nonstarter.

Most People Love Where They Live

The reality is that people love where they live. One study found that 81% of people are either somewhat or very attached to their current city. A Gallup study found that social offerings are — no matter where you live — the reason people love their community.

Social offerings vary by location, but people are attached to their community based on where they can meet up with other people — parks, restaurants, museums, events, and more — and the feeling that people in the community care for each other.

What Do Your Location and Housing Plans Look Like in Your Retirement Plans?

Have you modeled a relocation as part of your retirement plan? What about using home equity as a way to fund retirement?

In addition to enabling you to model downsizing and relocation, the NewRetirement Planner enables you to model tapping your home equity to help fund long-term care, living expenses, or as a backup source of income during a financial downturn.

What do your finances look like when you consider your housing as an integrated part of your overall plan?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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