The Best San Francisco Neighborhoods for Downsizing as an Older Adult

The best retirement neighborhoods for seniors in san franciscoAccording to the Big Bang Theory, the universe once rapidly expanded outwards, but at some point will start “crunching” together again—and returning to the center. On a much smaller scale, we’ve seen a similar phenomenon when it comes to the living situations of older adults in America. People spend their youth in apartments in the city, then expand to houses in the suburbs, until, after retirement, they return to city apartments and condos. With 40% of people aged 50-64 planning to move in the next five years, we might see San Francisco’s own version of the Big Crunch soon—but it could be a good thing.

Many older adults are excited to move back into a city that is still happening, as they treasure their independence and ability to get around—San Francisco’s youthful vibe can be a boon for older souls. Your aging loved one is sure to find that the area has a lot to offer, from cultural activities to outdoor exercise, community centers to retirement jobs. The key is selling the suburban house, and finding the right neighborhood in the city. As a loved one, you can help with both sides of that equation.

Helping Your Loved One Downsize for a Move

If your aging loved one has been living in a house in the suburbs, they may have far more space than they need—and already be considering a move to a smaller home. An “empty nest” means a lot to clean, and possibly a home with growing safety issues such as an unsafe bathroom or lack of a bedroom on the main floor. But, selling can also have its difficulties.

While we’re definitely in a seller’s market, a lot of older houses in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are outdated. This can make selling difficult, or may mean asking for a lower price on the home. Renovations, however, can get expensive—it’ll be important to know if the return on investment from renovating is actually worth the cost. Kitchen or bathroom renovations, for instance, can cost $20-30,000, or more, and might not actually provide a worthwhile return. That’s why many retirees are choosing to forgo renovations altogether when selling their home.

And, once your loved one’s home has been sold, there’s a final step in the downsizing process: everything that they (and possibly you) have been accumulating for years will need to be minimized. Remember to make sure that your loved one is involved in this process—include them when you sort household items into groups for donation, storage, or to bring to their new home. Ask them to help you pack, to the extent that they are able, so they feel assured their beloved possessions and memories will be safe during the move, and so they will know how to find them as they settle into their new home.

And while you’re packing, sorting, and selling in preparation for your loved one’s move, you should both be considering this one very important question—which amazing San Francisco neighborhood are they going to call home?

Choosing the Best San Francisco Neighborhood for Your Loved One

San Francisco is known for its distinct neighborhoods that each boast a unique flavor and focus, but these three areas stand out as favorites for older adults with youthful spirits.

  • Bernal Heights. Artsy. Quiet. Affordable, but still fun. Bernal Heights, with a median population pushing 50, has become an increasingly popular spot for retirees. Courtland Street, the main strip, has a great combination of cool stores, delicious restaurants, and quirky art shops. It’s a great way for older adults to ease their way back into city life without the chaotic hustle and bustle that other neighborhoods are known for.
  • Mission Bay. The city of San Francisco has spent almost $4 billion to upgrade this area, filling it with lofts and condos specially designed for seniors and retirees. It has become a safe, beautiful, and amenity-filled area for the aging population of the Bay Area. The neighborhood is filled with amazing public transportation, as well as breathtaking waterfront views, and a safe, enjoyable nightlife. It’s a unique area in the city where young singles and older adults alike can meet and mingle.
  • Rockridge. Across the bay by Berkeley, Rockridge is home to university professors, students, and seniors. It’s a great area for new condos along some of the main drags, which contain very walkable restaurants and stores—and has excellent public transportation to get into San Francisco proper. There’s a very pleasant vibe here, and if the older adult in your life still wants a home and a yard, but maybe a smaller one, the neighborhood is known for its quaint and cozy bungalows.

If there is an older adult in your life, consider discussing opportunities to downsize with them. They might be ready, or need, to sell their house and move on to the next stage in their life. And, for many, that next stage is back into the city. Helping your loved one make a move into a new, vibrant San Francisco neighborhood could be what they need to stay energized and excited about life, and ready to tackle the next chapter with enthusiasm, joy, and an undiminished sense of adventure.

At Institute on Aging, our mission is to help older adults and their families meet the challenges of aging with grace and dignity. Connect with us today to learn more about our programs and support services.

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Institute on Aging

Committed to offering thoughtful discussions and resources to older adults, their families, and their caregivers.

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