Growing old: city or country?

London 7am

Apologies to anyone reading who hasn’t been basking in balmy summer temperatures this week, this post may be a little annoying! We have enjoyed the most beautiful sunny last week of September since the 80’s apparently (why do Brits love a weather fact?) and London has been transformed into a summertime city for the last seven days.

I love living in London whatever the weather, but this week the city has sprung to life with an energy and vibrancy that makes me vow to never live anywhere else. As many of my friends struggle to find appropriate places for their aging parents to live, lots of our recent conversations have centred around where and how we are going to live when we get old. We joke about communes in Bloomsbury and old peoples homes by the sea, but as we all know, where we live is vitally important for a happy old age and this is a serious issue we are all going to face.

On Tuesday when the Today programme asked on Twitter ‘Is the city or the countryside the best place to live when you are old?’ and commented ‘You can’t live in the country if you are a a senior citizen and don’t drive,’ Amanda and I both replied without question ‘the city of course’. For us, being able to walk to interesting and useful shops and restaurants in less than five minutes is really important. It’s not so much about shopping – although it’s great to be able to buy pretty much anything, including, freshly made bread, nuts and bolts, organic meat and fruit and vege from all over the world – but more about having a chat with the local shop keepers, meeting up with friends and neighbours and interacting with the world in general.

I know for sure when I am an old women, these things will become more and more important and the thought of getting in the car for a loaf of bread, even now, is a step too far. I like to walk or cycle and if I need to go on a longer journey I’ll hop on a bus and read my book. When I walk the dog I like to meet other people for a chat, I’m continually fascinated by the diversity of the people I encounter on a daily basis, I find the sound of sirens and people walking past my house at 3am strangely comforting and most importantly I like to feel like I’m part of a big city, which is full of life. None of this is going to change as get older, in fact I think it will probably become more important.

My 77 year old neighbour is an example of how I want to live in the future, she is a regular in the local pub, knows all the local gossip, has loads of friends and cooks (delicious food) for everyone in the street. When her children tried to persuade her to move to the suburbs to be nearer to them, she said to me ‘why would I do that, I might as well be dead, every day is like a Sunday’.

I couldn’t have put it better myself! What do you think, where do you want to grow old, the city or the country?


  • gillian taylor says:

    Town every time! I just love my little cosmopolitan New Malden High street! I have a doctor, vet, Waitrose, little park for emergency dog walks, restaurants, buses, London that way – Kingston that way, and a colourful swirl of people drifting past my house – the largest community of Koreans outside of Korea ! As much as I adore the country and the coast when you are old you need to be near all these things to keep you independent for as long as possible! Also I speak with great authority as I am currently ‘caring’ for my 90 year old Mum (literally the hardest hardest hardest thing I have ever had to do) and it is just plain wrong to settle yourself in old age miles from your family who may at some time nead to look after you!!! #tearsneverfaraway!!!!

  • Jane says:

    Gillian I so agree and I’m loving the sound of Little Korea in New Malden *makes mental note to visit*. Good luck with looking after your mum – it must be so hard

  • Nicola Sweeting says:

    City for me. We used to live two minutes walk from Chester’s city walls and now live ten minutes walk away. Like you Jane I find the sounds of city life comforting. I also think it’s easier to keep fit if you live in a town or city as you walk everywhere. Friends who live in the country are always in their cars and don’t get nearly as much exercise as we do. My mother rented a little house for a short time right in the centre of Chester and loved it. There was a great community and all the shops and facilities right on her doorstep. We’ll definitely move further into town for our old age, not further out.

  • Jane says:

    I think a city like Chester must be a lovely place to live Nicola, I would definitely ‘downsize’ for a city like that or maybe even a city by the sea.

    J x

  • I think we talk about the weather all the time because we never know what it will be like one day to the next! BTW I think where you want to live probably depends on if you are living alone or not!

  • Susan says:

    City – no doubts on this one at all! I love the countryside but living there through all kinds of weather would just wear me down. And I agree with the comments on suburbia – if you want city life then it has to be close to the centre. Here in Edinburgh we have the best of both worlds anyway – within a 10 minute walk I can be in Princes Street Gardens in the shade of the castle, in the fantastic Botanic Gardens or walking along the Water of Leith which meanders through the city below the busy streets. But there’s also plenty of alternative inside entertainment on wet days!

  • Gill says:

    I want to live exactly where I do now – in the house I have lived in & loved for over 37 years. I might not be able to – it has lots of stairs, but I shall still want to live here in Ilkley, a lovely small town in West Yorkshire. It has lots of amenities, but for me is much friendlier than a big city. Whenever I go to the shops I meet someone I know, & I can walk on Ilkley Moor or by the River Wharfe without having to get out my car. We have views to die for, & fantastic scenery for miles around. Why live anywhere else?

  • Jane says:

    I know Ilkley well Gill and very lovely it is too. There is nothing like those moors for views. I have to disagree about cities not being friendly however, where I live in London is like a small village in that respect, everyone knows everyone – but perhaps I am just lucky.

  • Jo says:

    Probably a bit late to join in this discussion but I live in the country and thought you might like to hear about it. We live in a lovely 500 year old grade 2 listed cottage. We have deer in our field and pheasants too. And owls at night time and nightingales. We have lovely walks in the woods and down by the canal. It is wonderful in the summer and great for parties. But…….. at one stage I was driving about 100 miles a day. It’s 1.5miles to our nearest village shop. It’s about 6 miles to the next biggest shopping village and about 15 miles to the nearest big shopping town. We are 1.5miles from the nearest bus stop and obviously they aren’t that regular. My husband commutes to London so it’s a 25min drive to the station,then 40 mins on the train and then the drain. to the city. It’s a fortune to get the train and a fortune to park in the car park. We have to have 2 cars and now we have 3 as 18 yr old son is driving now. We have bottled gas for the Aga (about £100 a month), oil for heating (gone up from about £250 per fill when we moved here to about £600 now) and electricity,complete with regular blackouts because we are at the end of the electricity line. We can’t have proper double glazing cos of the listing. We can’t have cavity wall insulation because our walls are only one brick wide! We aren’t on mains drainage so have to have our septic tank emptied every year but if it is really really rainy, then it fills up more quickly. It takes me about 4 hours to cut the grass.
    When my son leaves home, we are considering moving back to London! Hope I haven’t put anyone off living in the country?

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