Seattle is a great community for aging. The city certainly has a plethora of dining, arts, entertainment and transportation options. Additionally, there are a multitude of senior services and living options that provide a range of choices for support and care.
But as the days get shorter, the weather cools and the skies turn gray, we may be tempted to think of sunnier locations where we’d like to spend our golden years. Other issues might factor into the decision to move elsewhere: The city is more crowded, the traffic is not getting better and the cost of living continues to increase.
On the other hand, on a list of the 50 best cities for seniors, Seattle was ranked second; only outdone by Portland, Oregon. http://www.bestplaces.net/docs/studies/seniorcities.aspx
In considering other locales, I think it’s important to not overlook the amenities offered by Seattle; the services and conveniences we might be taking for granted.
While on a recent trip to Eastern Washington, I met a fun couple in their early 80s. I was impressed with their vitality and enthusiasm for life but, because of my experience in caring for the aging, I was concerned about the location they had chosen for their permanent residence.
Twenty years ago they decided they’d had enough of Seattle. They bought a 60-acre property located eight miles up a dirt road and built their home.
As they told me this, I thought to myself, “What if they experience a medical emergency?”
They would need to drive down a dirt road that is rutted like a washboard and, once they reached the highway, drive another 20 minutes to reach a hospital. That’s if there is no snow on the ground, which is an ongoing winter condition where they live.
Maybe they’re fatalists. “We all have to go some time.” Maybe they’ve decided, if a critical health issue strikes and they’re unable to get timely medical assistance, that’s their fate.
To each their own.
But in my experience, seniors’ health predicaments rarely present a binary choice between a healthy life and a swift death — many health crises challenge seniors to address degrees of deterioration to quality of life. Prompt access to medical care can minimize the lasting impacts of strokes and heart attacks.
Perhaps even more important is the quality of health care delivery. Across the board, Seattle has outstanding health care institutions delivering excellent care to our aging population. If we don’t like our care provider, there are options. There are few metropolitan areas that have expertise on par with Seattle’s cancer and immunology institutes.
Transferring your medical care, Medicare coverage or Medicare Advantage insurance coverage to a new home city can be done. However, if you move your residence and have a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll have to change your insurance plan provider plan. Medicare Advantage plans are specific to the locale in which they are issued.
I know a retired couple who spent a substantial portion of the year in Phoenix, Arizona. At the same time, they were very attached to their Seattle doctors and the medical institutions in which their doctors practiced. Their solution: They retained a Seattle residence and flew back to Seattle for medical treatment and family time.
For many of us, this may not be practical; but I thought it was a creative solution to keeping the quality medical care to which they’d become accustomed, while spending time in a sunny, warm climate.
Wherever you consider relocating, check out the medical offerings.
Traditional Medicare gives you the widest choices of providers. But keep in mind that many medical practices are restricting the number of Medicare patients they’ll serve. Check out the area’s Medicare Advantage plan providers; review the list of preferred providers on each plan. Look to see if there is a combination of medical providers that appeals to you. Through online research, check out the providers’ reputations.
When researching other locales in which to live, look at other factors besides weather, cost of living, transportation and health care. Check out your potential new neighborhood’s crime rate; examine how tax rates impact seniors; look for surveys on something that is rather amorphous: “community well-being.” Having a friendly, supportive community is an integral part of happy, healthy aging.
Also factor in the logistics of staying connected with family. As we age, in-person support from family members becomes more vital.
If you are determined to move to a sunnier, dryer location, I suggest renting a place for several months before buying and moving.
Wishing you happiness and health in your golden years.
MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.