For some Long Islanders, an empty nest means downsizing to a smaller, more manageable space. For others, it means moving to a place where you will no longer have to worry about climbing stairs or doing yard work. A few even make the bold move to upgrade by finally building what they describe as their dream home.
Regardless of what form it takes, these Long Islanders say the most exciting part of empty nesting isn't about logistics so much as a renewed sense of independence.
'Very comforting to be here'
After her daughter, now 31, graduated college in 2010, Donna Powers, 64, was ready for a change. So she sold her 1,800-square-foot house in Port Washington and decamped to a nearby co-op half its size.
Powers, who had never lived in an apartment before, says it's important that she still have some outdoor space, where she can garden and barbecue. "I'm in a corner unit, and I share a large space outside with the lady downstairs," says Powers, a performance improvement specialist and adjunct professor. She says she also is happy that she doesn't have to worry about maintaining her property. "Having a house is a lot of work," she says. Here, she says, it's all taken care of. "It's made my life very simple."
Another benefit is a sense of security, she says. "Being alone and single, it's very comforting to be here," she says. "It's well-lit, and there are cameras. I've never been afraid." She says she likes the community she's found. "There are a lot of women my age, divorced, and we talk about being comfortable," she says. "It's like there's someone looking out for you."
Her advice Powers says the transition was challenging but worth it. "It's important to give yourself the time and the space to figure out what you want and where you want to be," she says. "And you have to be a little bit brave, and throw out what the norm was, and deal with the new normal. Change is hard, and the act of change is difficult. So be patient with yourself."
'We love Long Beach'
Barry Silberstang, 75, and wife Beverly, 73, took their time figuring out what they wanted to do once their daughter, now 35, left home in 2009. "We didn't move to Long Beach until 2016," says Barry Silberstang, an architect with a practice in Manhattan. Previously, the couple had spent 21 years living in a 2,000-square-foot Manhattan loft that Silberstang designed for his family. "[We] were quite happy living in Chelsea, and it helped that my office was located across the street," he says. "But we decided to move because Manhattan no longer appealed to our lifestyle."
Although their loft had 11-foot ceilings and plenty of room, Silberstang says it lacked light, and both he and his wife, who is retired and teaches floral design classes, wanted more light and a garden. They also wanted to plan for the future, he says. "The challenge was designing a house that would meet our needs as we grow older," he explains. Silberstang ended up designing the house they now live in, which is a 2,000-square-foot space with all the trimmings, and only a block from his daughter. He left space for an elevator, and made the house accessible for using wheelchairs, "even though we don’t need these features yet," he says.
His advice Silberstang suggests taking time to find the right home — and even renting for a year before settling on a neighborhood. "We came to Long Beach on weekends for two years before we bought," says Silberstang.
'We wanted a master bedroom on the first floor'
It took Drs. Sushil and Prem Sagar years to find the right home after their two daughters, now aged 37 and 34, left they say. "I saw a lot of houses I didn't like," says Sushil, 65. "Some had a small bedroom downstairs, or were old." The couple moved into their three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot town house at the Country Pointe Plainview development this spring. One of the biggest selling points for the medical doctors was the layout. "We wanted a master bedroom on the first floor," says Prem, 64, who works as a hospitalist.
Convenience was another selling point. "We want to travel more, and we don't want to be responsible for taking care of a house," says Sushil, who works as a nephrologist. He adds that their former home, a 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom house in East Meadow, where they lived for 24 years, had a pool they didn't make much use of. The outdoor maintenance on the property was proving inconvenient.
Their new home has everything they were looking for. The bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and deck also are on the main floor, and there's a guest bedroom upstairs for when their children and two grandchildren visit. Moreover, there is a sense of camaraderie in the brand-new development because everyone has just moved in. "I'm sure we're going to make friends, because everyone is looking to make friends," says Prem.
Their advice For Long Islanders thinking of making a similar move, Sushil recommends patience. "This can be challenging," he says. "But it can be done. There will be new ways of looking at things, and moving is a lot of work, so you should feel free to ask for as much help as you need, and make the move in phases." He says that not forcing the pace of the transition is key. "When you make the move comfortably, you will settle in comfortably," he says. "So don't rush, and take baby steps. It's a big project." He also recommends looking for the perfect fit. "Look for a house you really love," he says. "Don't move prematurely."