Writing about the benefits of relocating for a magazine whose tagline is “Find Your Ideal… Destination, Life, Home” does seem a little suspicious and self-serving. But, seriously, have you heard the latest? Relocating is good for you!
But, having had five moves involving three different states, and knowing those moves were positive experiences for me, I wondered what the literature says about moving. Is (voluntary) relocation good for your health? I decided to take a look and share my findings. The bottom line is it can indeed be a very good thing, for a variety of reasons.
Sharper Brain. With each of my moves, I enthusiastically explored my surroundings, sampling new restaurants, shops, parks, museums, local theater, and volunteer options, and embraced the challenges of fresh career opportunities. I’m not saying every step was easy, but relocating forces you off auto-pilot and out of your comfort zone. Research shows that novel situations enhance memory, and may even trigger the growth of new brain cells.
Move Your Body More. Our environment shapes our behavior. A location with nicer weather invites us to be outside and be more active than a rainy or cold-weather environment. Having lived in Maryland, Ohio, and New Jersey, I find that now (in sunny Florida), I’m outside a LOT: the ocean, walking paths, tennis courts, and my bike make exercising easier and enjoyable year-round.
Friends. Relocating can facilitate new friendships, introducing you to unexpected and fresh perspectives. Those who decide to age in place may have established a good network, but over time find their support group may move away: job transfers, friends, and neighbors who no longer want to live in a cold-weather climate, children who moved away because of career choices, divorce, death, etc. According to research, feeling lonely is equivalent to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. With social media (and cars and airplanes), it’s easy to stay in touch and visit with friends from former locations. Or, bring your “posse” with you! Two friends from my previous location live in my current community.
Adult Children/Grandchildren. Let’s acknowledge that, for many people, moving away from children/grandchildren can be difficult. I have three wonderful, independent, married, working children with fabulous spouses who live in three different cities in two different states, and three young grandchildren (the grandchildren were born after our last relocation). We visit our children/grandchildren several times a year (and they love coming to Florida for some R&R). We are delighted to stay with our grandchildren if the parents want to travel (escape?) as a couple, we get together for major holidays, and when we’re with our adult children, they can go out to dinner and have “couple” time. The family thing (should we stay or go) is a tough decision for many people, but it works well for us. We know, should there be an emergency, that they are only a flight away. However, if/when we are in our “third act” and are no longer independent, we may move closer to them (just for oversight, not to move in with them!).Benefits of sunlight. Voluntary migration patterns are often from cold weather states to those with warmer temperatures. Although the negative effects of too much sun is what we generally hear about (wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer), our planet’s almost perfect, glowing sphere of hot gas does remarkable things for our bodies. Here are some of them:
In a complex relay of nerve signals, sunlight stimulates our pineal gland (a pea-size gland within our brain) to make melatonin, which helps protect our skin and regulates our sleep-wake cycles. The precursor of melatonin in the pineal gland is serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical.
We’re familiar with Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin,” which can be made by the body through the action of sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D’s role in the body is impressive, including: bone and teeth health by promoting the absorption of calcium; increasing the body’s nitric oxide production which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the brain and kidneys (by relaxing blood vessels); strengthening our immune system and heart: regulating insulin; and helping control inflammation in the body.
Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid diseases. And, SAD (season affective disorder) seems to be triggered by a combination of particular genes and shorter days with less sunlight.
The average American spends 22 hours a day indoors, but we think we spend only 16 hours a day inside, according to YouGov, an international research company. And, a study published in Nutritional Research found that the rate of Vitamin D deficiency in the United States was 41.6%. Perhaps we’ve been too successful touting the downside of sunlight and ignoring its many benefits. Go outside and play!
Forced decluttering. Ah…how good does it feel to go through a closet or a garage, and give away/get rid of all of that stuff you don’t want/need? Relocating is decluttering on steroids. You feel lighter and leaner as you throw off the yoke of all unnecessary belongings. I found that moving to a house without a basement was truly liberating – it forced me to get rid of my Organic Chemistry books from the 1980s, and give away piles of things I wouldn’t use/didn’t need any longer.
Save Money. Moving to a place with a lower cost of living or downsizing to a smaller house can save you money. And, if you can ditch your car because you can either walk or use public transportation, you may be able to save even more.
You call the shots. Relocate before you can no longer live in your home and are forced to move. Most newer homes are built with “universal design” principles so you can age in place. No more low toilets, bathtubs you have to climb into to use the shower, or door handles that are difficult to turn. Be proactive, not reactive. And, remember – if for some reason it doesn’t work out, nothing is permanent.
We’ve all heard the quote about being more disappointed by the things you DIDN’T do than by the ones you did do. Change is invigorating. Embrace it.
Consistent social interaction is yet another requirement to ensure good health and a long, vibrant life. But for some, this is easier said than done.
Berkeley, Mayo Clinic, and the National Institute on Aging (among others) all cite evidence that suggests that social interaction improves physical health, increases cognitive functioning, and promotes a longer, more active life. Then, there are the multitude of studies that cite a direct correlation between happiness and social interaction. But, none of these studies tell us how to create or recreate social circles or form meaningful interpersonal relationships, especially after relocating or simply shifting gears during mid-life and into our senior years.
Americans typically spend the majority of their adult lives with their nose to the grindstone and spending free time with family. Friends often consist of colleagues and parents of children’s friends, with a few old friends and neighbors sprinkled in. Because there’s little time for forming (or keeping) the deep bonds with friends that came so easily in years past, social lives become family and children focused. So, by the time the nest empties, many simply feel that they don’t have the energy for it. This sense of defeat, combined with the loss empty-nesters often feel, can be a bit disillusioning. Yes, for some, jumping back into the social scene is like riding a bike, and they’re back in the game in no time. But for others, socializing and putting themselves out there is like pulling teeth.
Active Adult Communities. The Easy Way Out
This is essentially why active adult communities exist – to make staying active and social easy. Introvert or not, a healthy dose of connection does every body good. And, no matter your personality, finding where you fit into social scenes without the accessibility of organized activities, sports, clubs, and gatherings can be a challenge. This is exactly why active adult communities go above and beyond standard amenities like sports complexes, fitness clubs, and golf courses (all of which can be excellent social outlets). They develop workshops, help to form social clubs and organize events, activities, and outings in order to serve the varied needs and personalities of residents. Whether you’re a nature-lover, bird-watcher, moon-howler, pickleball player, golf fanatic, wine connoisseur, ballroom dancer, quilter, diehard volunteer, lifelong learner, or avid reader, there are people, groups, and activities designed for you. And, if you can’t make yourself go, don’t worry. That’s what having a tight-knit community full of people who have been (or are) in your shoes is all about. Neighbors will eventually get you there.
To many it is a sanctuary, the most wonderfully versatile piece of recreational equipment ever conceived. A thing that allows you to close your eyes and connect to the ancient swells and rhythms of the sea. A thing that can silently transport you to secret coves and unimaginably beautiful places. A thing that allows you to work as hard as you’ve ever worked and race 32 miles out to Catalina Island in the sport’s iconic championship. Or express your inner “devotional warrior” on your floating yoga mat … your paddleboard. While every long pull on the paddle carries you farther and farther away from the stress of the day.
Jump on Board
Sound inviting? Then seek out a place near you to learn to paddleboard and you’ll begin to understand the enriching hold of the fastest growing water sport in the world and an elixir for those in their silver years…both from a fitness standpoint and an aesthetic one.
Tom Lawn got hooked on paddleboarding as a newcomer five years ago when he bravely decided to paddle out to a shrimp boat trawling just off the tip of the North Carolina coast where he was unexpectedly adopted by a pod of some 80 dolphins following the boat for free snacks. So close Tom could touch them, the pod let him paddle along for a mile or so. And then the board had him.
At 66, Tom is a fixture at St. James Plantation, a 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape in Southport, NC, where he is unmistakable driving the mint condition, aqua blue Dodge van he and his wife Sue bought new in 1977. His paddleboards ride on top of the van, surfboard inside, with the couple’s Llewellin Setter, Esker, calling shotgun.
According to Tom, “Paddleboarding is so many things. It can be spiritual while paddling alone through the pristine backwaters of the bay. Or just family time, with Esker perched on the nose of the board and Sue paddling beside in her kayak.”
Sometimes Jenna Chenevert and Susan Goodwin will just sit down on their paddleboards and eat the lunch they packed earlier back home. Neighbors at Eastman, a welcoming four-seasons community in New Hampshire, the two thrive on the fitness and aesthetic benefits of paddleboarding on the community’s miles-long lake, and all around New England.
Jenna shares that, “It’s amazing how much stand up paddling exercises your core and legs, plus it requires excellent posture. But for seniors, perhaps the biggest benefit is how it enhances your balance abilities.”
Susan particularly embraces the natural beauty that comes with the activity. “I love paddling through the early morning fog on our lake, or for 30-mile stretches on the Connecticut River, where the fall foliage reflected in the water is just stunningly beautiful.”
A Little History
Today’s paddleboarders carry on a legacy that some suggest dates back 3,000 years to Peruvian fisherman who paddled reed boats out past the surf break, then stood up and surfed the fully stocked boat back home. But the earliest actual evidence shows a Polynesian paddleboarder heading out to greet Captain James Cook off Hawaii’s Kona coast in a famous engraving dating back to 1779. It would be his ancestors who brought paddleboarding to light two centuries later on the north shore of Oahu.
You will want to do a lot of research before buying a paddleboard, but generally you’ll be looking at a board that’s 10-12’ long and costs between $500-1,500. A lighter graphite paddle will be worth the investment to your hands and arms on long rides. Make certain, also, that the weight of the board (generally 24-30 pounds) is manageable and that you’re able to lift the board, or comfortably load it on a car rack for transport. There are even inflatable paddle boards that are lighter and easier to manage.
So, if the idea of enhancing your physical and spiritual health, while meeting new friends sounds inviting, just look for the mint condition, aqua blue van and say hi to the explorative new world of paddleboarding!
This 36,000 acre lakeside community is tucked in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region. Two hours north of Boston and minutes from Lake Sunapee, New London, Lebanon and Hanover, residents have easy access to medical facilities, employment, educational opportunities and a multitude of cultural venues.
Fur, scales, feathers, fins, or shells: no matter the shape, size, or species, owning a pet confers important health benefits. By sheer number, fish are the most common pet in the United States, followed by cats, dogs, birds, small animals (think hamsters, mice, and guinea pigs), and reptiles. My parade of pets through the years includes several dogs, a cat, hamsters, mice, a chameleon, a turtle (pre-salmonella scare), fish, and guinea pigs. Loved them all.
Research demonstrates that pet ownership provides a number of perks:
Better Health. Interacting with pets or merely watching them (assuming they aren’t tearing up your sofa or chewing through a wall) can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones. Petting a dog or cat releases endorphins and other “feel good hormones” such as serotonin and oxytocin from our brains. Pets can lower your chances of dying from a heart attack, lower levels of depression, and, particularly for older adults, they help keep your brain sharp, by forcing you to stay “present” when caring for them. They can be a distraction when you’re having a rough day—they don’t care that you’ve been fired or have gained five pounds.
Live-in Companionship. Loneliness can kill. Studies have shown the negative effects of loneliness are comparable to smoking, and about as dangerous as being obese. The band Three Dog Night was really on to something when they sang, “One is the loneliest number.” About one in four older adults live alone in the United States. Pets can be loyal friends. Most of us who have/had a pet would admit to unabashedly loving our pets (I certainly would).
Sense of purpose. We need something to wake up for each day. Caring for a pet checks that box. Pets rely on us for food, shelter, play, and their medical needs. Being a “pet parent” may add more structure to our lives, which is a positive thing. Pets give us something to think and care about beyond ourselves.
Exercise. Depending on the type of pet you have, you may become more active and more social. For example, research shows that dog owners walk an average of 22 minutes more per day than non-dog owners, and dogs won’t make up excuses about why they can’t exercise with you!
Social. Walking your dog provides opportunities for meeting people, and there’s a built-in topic for starting a conversation – right on the end of your leash. The proliferation of dog parks (they’ve grown by 20% over the last five years), provides an additional way to socialize your pet – and you.
Protection. Of course a dog, screaming bird, growling cat, or other pet that makes noise when alarmed or senses something out of the ordinary can help protect his or her “pet parent.”
Fewer allergies in children. Babies born into households with cats and dogs have fewer allergies, in general, than those not born into pet households, according to a study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy. It’s thought that early exposure to pet dander and pet bacteria builds up immunity in children.
Jan Cullinane is an award-winning retirement author, speaker, and consultant. Her current book is The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (AARP/Wiley).