Choosing the best place to spend your golden years can be tough and even a bit intimidating, but the “best of” lists can do more harm than good.

In the quest to locate the best retirement community for senior living, AZ retirees will be better served leaving the “Top Ten” lists out of the search. Knowing what you really want in a city and neighborhood will give you a much better opportunity to find a place that offers you the lifestyle you truly want.

There are a lot of “Best Retirement Destinations” lists on the internet and even published in magazines, and those of us who are ready to retire or have parents of retirement age look over these lists with relief that someone else, presumably an expert, has already done the hard work for us by evaluating a large swath of criteria and has used their unique judgment to determine the very best accommodations that will suit everyone that reads said list.

I learned firsthand that there really is no substitute for just listening to what people tell you they want, especially if you are going to be making the choices for someone, or at least assisting them with this decision. I moved back home to Arizona a few years after college to be closer to the people that matter to me most. I am very glad to be back, and it means helping with family decisions is a bit easier.

I am the youngest of six children and my parents were quite a bit older when they had me, so I find myself experiencing things in my late twenties usually saved for people in their fifties. First my father passed and then my mother began to need a lot more help with her daily activities. She is a very independent woman, but there came a point where there were just some things she could not do. Once this became a reality, I began to fixate on her basic needs at the expense of her desires for independence, community, hobbies, and other interests.

‘Top 10 Retirement Destinations’ Lists Are No Substitute For Research

All of my other siblings live out of state now, so though I am the youngest, I was in the best position to help. At the time I thought I needed to just take control of everything, but I would eventually learn that this was a process that needed my mother at the helm, my job was to be her strength. I went straight to the internet and found tons of lists with “objective” criteria that I thought were going to help me. I assumed she wanted to stay in Arizona, and I assumed that an elder care facility that does everything for you would make her delighted.

When I asked her to come with me to tour a senior living community I had found online, she was a bit horrified, actually. I hadn’t even asked her for her preferences before finding this place. She went along with me anyway, but there was some tension. In hindsight, I know I made her feel like an infant. I was making a serious choice that would impact the rest of her life, and I had no idea what she wanted. We all must resist the impulse to view seniors, regardless of their level of ability, as if they were “childlike”. They are people who have forgotten more than you have learned yet, they have lived, and they know what they want!

The “Best Places to Retire…” lists do provide a service in that they can compile some facts about crime rates, access to medical facilities, warm weather and such, but in reality, you can make just about any decent town in the United States of America a nice place to live in retirement. The number of medical professionals specializing in elder care is important, but in general, you are much better off choosing the city that has the kind of climate and culture you prefer. Other considerations simply don’t matter as much.

In the past, choosing a part of the country your adult children were likely to be made sense, but with today’s economy, your adult children very likely will have to move a few times for career opportunities. In retirement, you truly have the luxury of being more motivated by internal factors than external ones. Embrace it!

After understanding that I had completely shut my mother out of her own care decisions and made her feel bad, I decided to start anew. We sat down together and found a great senior living community that was affordable, had geriatric medical expertise, and was in the location she loved. Most importantly, she really loved the fact that it was near a small music venue that is frequented by jazz singers and musicians on a regular basis.

I visit her quite a bit, but only when she has free time. She is even more busy and active now than she was when she lived in her own home. I shudder to think how her life would be if she had allowed me to put her in a location she didn’t choose. So please, put down the lists, think about what you or your loved one really wants in life, and then go find it.

Blogger N. M. Davidson is someone who has found his voice through the written word, and has not stopped talking since. He blends the personal with the universal and hopes it reaches an audience of like minded people who can relate. Today’s blog post was written on behalf of Christian Care, a senior community dedicated to providing the kind of safe yet personally fulfilling senior living AZ residents flock to. If you are facing a similar decision in for yourself or your loved ones, visit the homepage for more information.