The children have grown up and retirement looms. Your thoughts turn to owning a place in the sun, the pictures that your mind conjure up are idyllic. Time to spend together visiting places, soaking up the sunshine, relaxing in a small café.
Then the penny drops you are not as mobile as you once were, in fact some of you may be disabled, but don't let this put you off. All it needs is more thought, more planning and a checklist of your needs.
For many people who buy a property abroad or, especially, those who retire abroad, the reason they are not happy is because they haven't done their homework. That lovely little village where you spent a wonderful two weeks last July will most certainly seem very different in February!
So, to make your dream come true prioritise. What are your needs? If you aren't as mobile as you once were a property miles from other people and with an acre or so of garden isn't exactly practical. However, some villages do have travelling commerce a baker, butcher, grocer and greengrocer which could keep you ticking over for a while. But occasionally you will need to make that big shopping expedition and, especially with frozen foods, you don't want a long journey.
Property in towns and villages with commerce are most certainly going to be more expensive, unless you are fit or have the necessary cash to take on a renovation project. If, like us, you are not up for that, looking at property within a 10 minute drive of commerce is well worthwhile. Everyone will have their own particular needs but importantly you will need shops, however basic, a doctor, a pharmacist and a bank.
When we first bought our house in France I was in a wheelchair for 80% of the time, on bad days 100% or I stayed in bed. So we knew we would need some commerce, including the above. The other priority was the layout of the property.
You know your own limitations, are you able to access the house with steps or do you need a ramp, do you need an adapted bathroom, what are the dimensions of the doors, is the layout practical to use a wheelchair in doors and what is the access to the garden like? Don't be pressurised by estate agents to take something unsuitable.
How often do you intend to travel to the property and how are you going to do so? If you intend to make short, frequent visits you would not want to look for somewhere with long travelling times involved. If you intend to stay for up to six months at a time you have the luxury of looking further afield but bear in mind whether you will have the availability of a car to get around or need public transport.
If you intend to moved abroad permanently you will need to take into consideration your financial situation. Pensions can, usually, be paid into a bank account in the country of your residence, including the State Pension but you would need to discuss this with your pension provider. If you are in receipt of benefits before you leave the United Kingdom check with the Department for Work and Pensions whether these will continue. http://www.dwp.gov.uk will give you lots of advice and provide access to contact addresses and numbers for all types of benefits.
At the moment it is not possible to claim a benefit once you leave the United Kingdom and if you decide you cannot cope abroad it would be sometime before you could re-enter the system in the United Kingdom.
If you make the move bear in mind some EU countries are not geared up for disabilities. I live in Burgundy, France, and have found many obstacles to disabled people. My biggest bugbear is cobbles, of which many towns and villages have copious amounts!
Shops are not disabled friendly as in England where all supermarkets have checkouts large enough for everyone and a variety of wheelchairs and mobility scooters to use; I am lucky if I can find a trolley to fit my French national health wheelchair and there is perhaps two or three checkouts for disabled people! In towns you may find a dropped kerb one side of the road but not the other, and getting round some shops can be a nightmare. Many times we have been told that a restaurant caters for disabled people and find the toilets are up/down stairs.
Saying that disabled people are treated as - people. There is no 'do they take sugar' attitude. I have made friends with other disabled people I meet in town and I get lots of 'bonjours' and on the whole the people are great; it is the system as a whole. In 2004 the EU said that all public places should be accessible to disabled people but France has declared that there is 10 years to put these issues into practice.
But don't be disheartened, if you come prepared life can be wonderful, the pace of life will only improve your life and there are opportunities galore if you make the effort to integrate.
Just bear in mind research, homework, preparation and you can have that life in the sun just like everyone else.
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