Parents in their mid-70s relocating to Bay Area

My parents live in New England, where they have lived in the same community for 50 years, and in the same house for over 30. They have a small group of friends and are active in the Jewish community there. They are currently 70 and 75 (mom/dad). My dad is still working, but plans to retire within the next 1-3 years, at which point they plan to move out here, at least 6-9 months a year, to be closer to me and our two young daughters. My brother and his three children live in New York, so they do not want, ideally, to make a full move out here, at least for the moment. They are active, contented, lovely, healthy people, and I have sorely missed being near them since moving out here long ago. In short, I am thrilled that they will be moving here, and that they will be a huge part of my children's lives. They have always visited frequently (multiple times a year) and love this area, but it is not their home.

I am looking to hear stories from others who have had parents in a similar position move out at such an advanced age. What have you done to help ease the transition? How has it gone? What would you do differently looking back? I am beginning to worry about potential social dislocation for them, once they move away from all of their friends, known community and environment, and way of life. Will it be too hard for them to adapt and resettle in their mid-70s? I know that it depends on individual inclination, but I also fear that there is a definitive age factor at play that potentially overrides personality/temperament. Over the years of reading this newsletter, I have read many stories of parents/grandparents moving out here, and I am wondering how the process has unfolded. My mom would love to take a weaving class at the Richmond Art Center. My dad loves cooking and wine. But, they are getting up there in age. I am concerned about them being/feeling uprooted, and, too how that will play out when one of them dies first, leaving the other behind, outside of their known community and network of support.


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My parents did it (moved from MA to Berkeley) after my father's retirement.  I had many of the same concerns you did, but it went really well.  You mention a number of the things that helped my parents: a faith community, activities and clubs, and access to local resources for their interests (wineries and restaurants count!).  It did look to me like there were some parallels between post-retirement years and, say, your early 20s.  A lot of people have moved to new towns, or are experiencing other shake-ups in their social availability, whether from the death of a spouse/partner or all the new time available with retirement.  There were a lot of people who were experiencing the same social dislocation they were, and, frankly, that's fertile ground for forming new communities, especially when these are people without jobs, kids of their own to raise, etc. All those things that can make it hard for us to form new social ties, they don't have those barriers.  My parents settled right in, joined a local church, participated in local clubs and activities, got to know their neighbors, and spent a lot of time with my children. It was wonderful.  I do know it helped my parents a lot that they had each other, were in good health at the time, and are the kind of people who will be active and put themselves out there.  Some things that really helped them over the years, especially as they declined: they chose good housing, that they were able to stay in, and they really made a project of learning their way around and what resources were available.  With your parents only planning to be here part-time, they might be disinclined to put in that effort of building local knowledge, but I'd really encourage it.  My mom had a tough last year or two, and it was so great that my dad already knew his way around, so that, say, they greeted having to make a trip to UCSF for a doctor's appointment as a chance to also go to some particular restaurant or museum.  And of course it was hard for him after she passed, but it really was apparent to me then how much of a community he had built.  Best wishes to your family as you make this transition. 

6 yrs ago, my retired parents moved from Cleveland, Ohio. They lived in the same home for 40 yrs and I too was concerned about the enormous change and transition. They moved to Rossmoor, an incredible very safe retirement community in Walnut Creek, and have zero regrets. Rossmoor is a large community with a variety of housing options from apartments to single family homes. It offers a ridiculous number of clubs, classes, activities, weekly farmers market, etc. This is definitely a place for active seniors. It has a bus system both for inside the community and to downtown Walnut Creek and the BART station, which is a plus when the time comes that they can't drive. Since there is such a variety of activities, they quickly made friends and have developed a wonderful community.

I am 75 and my husband will soon be 80. We lived in a suburb of Chicago for 30 years. Twelve years ago we relocated to Walnut Creek to be near  two of our daughters/grandchildren. I joined a synagogue immediately.....then joined the sisterhood. I am in the choir, the book club and the social action group--Joining a "chavura" is a good idea. We love it here--lovely weather, a 12 month growing season and beautiful places to visit in easy driving distance. BUT, spending time with our daughters/grandchildren made the move totally worthwhile. I also immediately set up a healthcare system for the both of us. 

My parents moved from Chicago out here in their mid-70's after living there their whole lives. They moved to Rossmoor in Walnut Creek where they became very active in a number of clubs, from big band, Democratic Party groups, WW II vets, Jewish women's group, swimming, current events, ...  There are over 100 clubs there, so they made friends quickly. There are lectures and classes they took part in.  When they got more invalid, they used the services there. What else did I do to help them? I took them around the neighborhoods: Walnut Creek, SF, Oakland, Berkeley, and Marin. I made sure I had doctors and dentists lined up for them so they didn't have to search. I gave them lists of stores and service providers and restaurants near them. I think they were content with the move and were glad to be near their only grandchildren. I'm not saying it was easy on them, but I believe they thought it was worth it. I sure am glad they moved here.  BTW there are weaving classes offered through the Pleasant Hill recreation department that I've taken and liked.

My parents and my aunt did the same thing, but in their late 60s and from the Midwest. I was so worried about them -- about their safety, about their navigational abilities, about loneliness. But they have LOVED it out here after so many years spent in boring, conservative, homogeneous suburbs. They love the easy access to culture, the diversity, the restaurants, the warm winters. In particular they've enjoyed the OLLI program at Cal, Berkeley Rep, bridge groups, tennis clubs, the Montclair Swim Club, Rosie the Riveter museum, art classes, stuff at Stanford, the Oakland Museum, films. One interesting thing is that they *haven't* fallen in love with SF. They barely have time for it and when they do make it into the city they mainly hit the art museums. I'm not sure if it's too overwhelming or too young or what. They adore the East Bay. Learning their way around has been a bit of the challenge, with the density and all of the highways, and the hills. If your parents can learn to use their GPS or a smart phone with Google Maps (if they don't know already) that might be a big advantage to feeling comfortable. Mine also rented AirBNBs/VRBOs to try out different neighborhoods for a while before buying homes. My aunt in particular has enjoyed Bay Farm Island on Alameda, which has a certain Midwestern quality that she likes. I would also suspect that life east of the Caldecott Tunnel might have an easier, slower pace for older folks, if that's important, but perhaps less public transportation options. Overall it's been a great move for all of them, they are SO happy here, and it's wonderful to have my family nearby. They've been way more intrepid and adventurous that I ever would have imagined and have adjusted really quickly.

While I have not personally experienced that, I want to say, since they are Jewish, my temple (Temple Sinai in Oakland) is very active and has a large number of people in their 60's-80's who are involved. One group "The Next Chapter" does occasional outings, the Women's group has book clubs, bridge and maj jong, etc. Social Action has a slew of things going on. 

Several years ago, my in-laws moved from Westchester County to a large apartment complex in Walnut Creek located between the BART station and downtown. They are now about the same age as your parents. I was convinced that they should be in North Berkeley, but they are quite happy where they are. If they did stop driving completely, I think it would be slightly harder for them.

They love being able to walk anywhere and take BART or drive. My father in law is involved with several synagogues including one in Walnut Creek and Chochmat Halev in Berkeley. He also takes classes at the Fromm Institute at USF. They go to theater, opera or museums in Walnut Creek, Berkeley/Oakland and San Francisco. Many of their friends have relocated to the Bay Area or Florida and they both like to travel to them and also have regular visitors. They are glad to not have to deal with shoveling snow and weather-restricted travel.

Two of their friends have grandchildren in Connecticut and here in the Bay Area and they do try to split their time by coming to the Bay Area two to three times per year for 4 to 6 weeks and staying in short term rentals. I think they are not as happy with that situation.