Who, Not Where

Robert Michel |

When we older folks think about where we should live as we age, what should be the most important consideration? (I reluctantly include myself in “older” ?) There’s really no one factor that’s equally salient to all of us grannies and geezers. Determine what’s most important to you. Family, friends, and/or advisors can help. That said, a valuable starting point is to take stock of your relationships. Think who, not where. Why?


Some compelling research demonstrates that those who enjoy strong relationships live longer, live healthier, are happier, and keep their wits about them longer.

(Related media stories here) What makes us happy and healthy are deep, rich relationships and social connections. For sure, exercise and eating right remain key contributors to good health.  But increasingly social interaction is considered just as important. Loneliness, or the absence of rich relationships, has been linked to poor heart and cognitive health. In short, good relationships with family and friends predict a good life.

This means that when thinking about where to live as we age, geographic location matters less. Rather who lives close by matters more. In fact, this line of thinking reframes the question from where to live to near whom to live, perhaps even with whom. Who, in other words, not where. It’s this kind of thinking that leads parents to live near children (or children near parents), and friends to live near friends. (A Chinese phrase, wu dai tong tang, sets as an ideal “five generations under one roof.” Just saying! ?)


Relationships and location aren’t mutually exclusive. Some locations can offer a web of supportive relationships. These can be hometowns and other places that are deeply familiar and comfortable. (??My Hometown??) In the case of college towns, urban hubs, and retirement communities, there can be a broad opportunity to develop and/or deepen relationships.

When we ponder where to live, my suggestion to begin with an evaluation of relationships is simply that, a starting point. Safety and health issues, convenient access to transportation and quality health care, financial and other considerations do matter. They shouldn’t be ignored.

And basing a where-to-live decision on relationships can have its own risks. Relationships change; family and friends move, fall ill, or pass. Be open to the possibility of change, good and disruptive, gradual and sudden. Think about where to live by starting with who is important in your life. And accept change

iOne glaring weakness of the research is the absence of women in the first cohort of participants.

iiDisclosure: This commentary is furnished for the use of Glen Eagle Advisors and its clients. It does not constitute the provision of investment advice to any person. It is not prepared with respect to the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person. Investors reading this commentary should consult with their Glen Eagle Advisors representative regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities or adapting any investment strategies discussed or recommended in this commentary. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is conferred by the CFA Institute.