Rethinking geographic identity

 I keep thinking about a recent article in the New York Times about the problems seniors are having finding (or keeping) affordable housing. The problem is especially acute for those on fixed incomes in cities like New York, San Francisco and Boston, where housing costs are stratospheric.

Even people who’ve held professional jobs for their entire careers, who have saved diligently and lived within their means, are finding that they can’t stay in the homes and neighborhoods they love because of soaring rents (or in the case of homeowners, rising taxes and maintenance or HOA fees). Having physical issues makes matters more difficult, especially for older people in residences whose entries, doorways and bathrooms can’t accommodate a wheelchair or walker.

On a societal level, this housing shortage is an important policy issue. Pressure your representatives to address it.

On a personal level, use it as a cautionary tale. Your plan for your next act—the one that follows traditional full-time employment—should factor in whether you can afford to stay where you are, and whether that residence is even appropriate if you’re not in perfect physical condition. And if you can’t stay where you are now, you should investigate where great alternatives are.

By contemplating moving, you’ll be confronting the realities of geographical identity, the one you know as “Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker” or “I am a San Franciscan and a Giants fan for life.” The goal is to transition to an identity built around a location that’s the best match for your anticipated needs.

The key word is anticipated. Begin planning early, and you might just be able to afford to stay where you want—or go somewhere you want even more—when the time comes.

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