Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Perfect Distance From Children and Grandchildren

How Far Away Should You Retire From Your Children?

In my last post, I listed a series of questions that retirees should ask themselves before choosing their retirement home.  They all boiled down to determining the perfect distance you should live from your children and grandchildren.

This is an issue that most retirees have to consider when they begin to make their retirement plans.  As I asked in the earlier article, are you willing to live an airplane flight away, a long drive away, or in the same neighborhood as your adult children and grandchildren?  The truth is that there is no single answer that is right for everyone.  There are many different factors to consider and, no matter what you decide, there will be advantages and disadvantages.   In addition, if you have multiple children, you may live near some of them and a long distance away from others.  No matter how near or far away you live, there are challenges you will need to consider.

In my earlier post, I gave readers a list of questions to consider that would help them decide how far away they wanted to live from their children.  This week's post should help you draw the conclusions that are right for you.  In the last sections of this post you will find comments that have been left by real grandparents and teens who have their own opinions of the right distance to be away from their family.

Retiring an Airplane Flight Away From Your Children

Have you always dreamed of living in a milder climate or, possibly, an exotic country?  Those early years after you retire may be the single best opportunity you will have in your lifetime to live somewhere new and fun.  Now is your chance to live wherever you want, without regard for your job or other obligations.  This decision, however, could take you far away from your children.  Are you willing to leave your adult children and young grandchildren behind in order to have your own adventure?

There is no reason to feel guilty about choosing to spend your 60's, 70's or even your later years living someplace where you have always wanted to spend time, whether that is Florida, Arizona or Costa Rica.  Some people have found that making a move like this has even strengthened their family relationships.  Their children are left to make their own decisions, without feeling that their parents are always there to look over their shoulders.  When the parents and children get together once or twice a year, either at the children's or parent's home, the visits are likely to be more fun ... something everyone looks forward to.  In between visits, the grandchildren can use Skype or FaceTime to show their grandparents their Halloween costumes, holiday gifts or soccer trophies.  Facebook makes it easy to stay in touch and see what your family is doing, too.

One downside is that you may find it more difficult to stay in touch with former friends and neighbors, since that connection may not be as strong as the bond you have with your children. However, this will be offset when you reach out to people in your new community and make friends there, as well.

Another risk you take is that it may be harder to reach family members quickly whenever there is an emergency.  If you or your spouse has to go into the hospital, it could be very difficult for your children to make arrangements to get there.  If a grandchild has a medical emergency, it will be equally difficult for you to be there to help out.  In some cases, resentments may develop between the generations because of the distance.

Retiring a Long Drive Away From Your Children

One way to handle the disadvantages of living an airplane flight away from your children is to live a long drive away from them.

In this case, you will have all the advantages of being able to live where you want, visit with them a couple of times a year, and use Skype and Facebook to stay in touch.  At the same time, it will be easier for you and your old friends to meet occasionally or join each other for special events.

In addition, in an emergency you can reach other family members within a day ... which can be very comforting.

One of our daughters lives an eight hour drive away from us.  When she had an emergency and was rushed to the hospital last summer, it was a relief to be able to hop in our car and arrive at the hospital that evening.

Retiring in the Same Community As Your Children

Your final option is to live in the same general area as your adult children.  This can mean living within walking distance or living twenty or thirty miles away from them.  In either case, it can make it easy for you to get together regularly and spend lots of time with your grandchildren.

It can also mean that you become their first choice whenever they need a baby sitter or pet sitter.  Depending on how close you live, they may ask you to watch the kids after school, drive them to school, or take them to baseball practice and other after school activities.  Are you willing to be that involved in the lives of your grandchildren?

On the other hand, you might end up seeing less of them than you expect.  They may not want you to be at their house for every holiday and they may not want to spend all their free time going to your place for Sunday dinner, either.  Are you going to feel resentful and left out if they choose to spend some of their holidays and free time with the in-laws or friends ... leaving you to fend for yourselves?

You also have to ask yourself if you are going to be more tempted to interfere in their lives if you live nearby.  Are you going to pepper them with questions about every decision they make or constantly make suggestions about how they should do things?

Living near your children and grandchildren can create its own unique set of problems.  It can require more patience and discretion on your part, if you wish to get along with your adult children.  You may have to learn to hold your tongue and let your children know that you respect their decisions.  Are you prepared to take a back seat and not intervene, even when you disagree with decisions they are making?  What if you think they are making poor financial decisions, drinking too much, or not raising their children correctly?  Keeping your mouth shut can be a lot easier when your children live a few hundred or a few thousand miles away.

Deciding Where To Retire

As you can see, there is no single choice that is right for everyone.  In fact, you may end up moving closer to one adult child and further away from others.  This is very common in families today, since so many young adults have to relocate for their careers.

You also have to consider the possibility that you might move someplace to be near a particular child, only to have that child move away.  This happened to a friend of mine when the husband of her only daughter was transferred by his company to a state that is 1,500 miles away.  My friend is very resentful that her children and grandchildren are no longer living nearby, yet she does not want to move to the cold weather state where they now live.

What Real People Have Said About The Distance They Live From Family

I sometimes write for a site that has both young and older readers.  As a result, I asked readers on that site the question of how far away retirees should live from their adult children.  I received a wide range of opinions.  Here are some of the more interesting answers that they gave:

From a grandmother who lives near her kids:  "I am a grandma and all my children and grandchildren live less than a 5 minute drive away. My daughter and I walk frequently to each other's houses and I could walk to my son's house. Soon, I will take care of my youngest grandson a couple of days a week and am glad that we are all very close together. It makes it easy to help out and I can have the kids over for a short time. When my son and family lived a 30 min drive away, visits were more committed. Still, we are close, but we respect each other's space. I don't stop by without being invited or at least have communicated if they are up for a visitor and they do the same. We all like each other a lot and like to spend time together."

From another grandmother who likes a little distance: "When it comes to our kids, I think distance actually does make the heart grow fonder."

From a grandmother who resents her daughter's move:  "This question touches a nerve. My daughter wants me involved in the lives of her kids, but moved to a far away state. It costs me thousands to see any of them. Yes, they could Skype or text, but they don't. The problem is, with several options, their generation is overwhelmed. So they use none of it."

From a teenager:  "I am a teenager. As someone who has lived away from both sets of grandparents and has had very limited communication with them, I would definitely say that grandparents and their children and grandchildren should live relatively close. Every time I visit my grandparents, I can only stay for a few weeks at most. The rest of the time, I can only call them over the phone. I really really wish that I lived closer to my grandparents so I could be with them more!"


As you can see, opinions vary widely.  Some of the comments I received also indicated that not all grandparents want to be regular babysitters.  (I received that comment from men, although I am sure some women feel the same way.) Other grandparents seem to welcome the opportunity.  In the end, the best advice is to choose a retirement home in a location that seems best suited for you.  Once you have done that, everything else is likely to fall into place, making everyone happier.

You may also be interested in reading my last post on this topic at:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com/2015/04/how-far-should-you-live-from-your-adult.html

If you are looking for ideas about wonderful retirement locations, use the tabs or the pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other articles about retirement.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: Photo of Laguna Beach taken by author, Deborah-Diane; all rights reserved.


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