By Steve Davidson, Independent Living Resident

Since moving to Cedar Community in West Bend three years ago, I am often asked, “Why did you move there?” The question is often asked by those who are aware that I am still working as a part-time interim pastor of a UCC church in Oshkosh, running 25 to 30 miles/week, singing in four choirs at last count, etc. The question usually comes from those who are burdened by antiquated, stereotypic notions of what goes on in retirement communities. In response, I make what has come to be known as “the speech.” 

In 1996, having lived in cities for more than 30 years, and with our kids successfully launched in life and plane rides away, I said to Carol, “What’s next for us?” It was time to explore the road not taken. That resulted in a move to a church in a small village in northwest Michigan near Traverse City. Twenty years later, at age 73, having served several UCC churches up there, one of us said, “What’s next?” To sort out what’s next, we had to sort out our priorities. We knew all along we would not live in northern Michigan forever, and there would be at least one more move for us.

Plan, Prioritize, Decide

Because we had lived in six different states along the way and were in extremely good health, we had a ton of options. To slug our way through those options, we had to plan, name priorities, and decide what we wanted and needed in the next phase of our lives. To do that, we found it necessary to answer a bunch of questions:

  • Do we need to own a house again or would we be content to rent?
  • Do we need a house or would an apartment be best?
  • Do we need to live rural or do we need to move back to a city?
  • Do we need to live near our kids or do we need simply to have greater access to them (in our case, that has to do with airports)?
  • Do we need greater access to good hospitals?
  • Should we look for a setting that offers continuing care?
  • How active do we intend to be?
  • Will this next move be our last?
  • What can we afford to do?
  • Is downsizing in the works for us at some point and when?

Find a Place to Fulfill Your Priorities

Once those questions were answered and priorities decided, the next step was to figure out where those priorities could best be fulfilled. Let’s face it – that last item on the list is the one that scares the willies out of most mortals. As a pastor, I have often been in touch with elderly folks (usually widows) who have been in a house forever and who simply cannot face the harsh reality or the hysterical/emotional challenge of downsizing. Sometimes, having considered the options, it is decided, “I’m staying here forever. My kids will deal with my stuff.”

Obviously, one size does not fit all, as the cliché goes. That’s why the above questions have to be answered. Carol and I knew that downsizing was in the works for us. We wanted to do this while we were “young” and able to do it on our own, without having to lean on our kids. We wanted to be in control of that. My plea to those who were born before Eisenhower finished his second term: HAVE A PLAN. Think about “the next.” If necessary, do some digging. Get some information. Explore some possibilities.

When we celebrated our 73rd birthdays, we realized we needed to start working on “the next.” We had the luxury of good health and time, but we knew it was time!