For many of us, retirement conjures up images of a house by the sea or a few months caravanning around Australia. But there is so much more to consider when choosing how and where you want to live when your working days are over.

Whether you’re planning to stay put, downsize, move into a retirement village or travel, the most important thing you can do is think ahead, says David Johnston, of Property Planning Australia.

“If you can start planning for it, then you’re more likely to make it work,” he says.

The Grace by Australian Unity.The Grace by Australian Unity. Photo: Nick Lenaghan

For example, people who want to live in a particular suburb might consider buying a small property in the area years before they plan to downsize.

And, it always pays to understand your finances before getting your heart set on a major move. Read up on government programs such as the new super boost incentive for downsizers, which allows people 65 and over to put money from downsizing into their superannuation fund.

“Once you understand that picture, you’re able to then work through the lifestyle outcomes you’re looking for,” Johnston says.

The Grace by Australian Unity.The Grace by Australian Unity. Photo: Nick Lenaghan

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke​ says  downsizing or moving out of a lifelong home is often motivated by the need to free up finances for holidays or property. But it can come with unintended financial consequences, such as pension eligibility, stamp duty or bank fees.

Advisers can also help you navigate retirement village contracts and leasehold arrangements, which are different from real estate contracts.

“It is important to obtain all the information and then professional advice about the costs of downsizing or moving before doing so,” Henschke says.

The Grace by Australian Unity.The Grace by Australian Unity. Photo: Nick Lenaghan

Though many retirees are interested in buying country or coastal homes, even more people want to live within easy reach of family and friends.

“A lot of retirees like to stay within a few kilometres of their local area, where they can stay close to friends or family, and maintain relationships with local doctors,” says Ben Myers, the executive director of Retirement Living at Property Council of Australia.

“For others, especially couples whose adult children no longer live at home, the ability to have a great lifestyle ranks very highly,” says Myers. “Downsizing allows them to free up more time that may have been spent doing home and garden maintenance, to pursue part-time work and leisurely activities, and enjoy the most of life.”

Australians over 55 also need to consider access to services they might need more as they age. Public transport to the supermarket, medical centres and other amenities, such as health clubs or community centres, becomes more important as driving becomes more difficult.

“A heart problem, for example, can mean you need specialist care and proximity to a cardiac unit,” Henschke says. “Being near good health services can be the difference between life and death.”

Depending on your age and health needs, the safety and security of property you choose also matters. Johnston tells clients to consider single-level properties with a simple floor plan, in case health or mobility become an issue.

“They want that ease of living,” he says. “People have worked hard all their lives and would like to keep life simple.”

Other retirees seek out opportunities to be socially active outside of their family – through friends, clubs or retirement villages with people in a similar age group.

“People don’t want to think that they are going somewhere to be old. Retirement living is about enhancing someone’s lifestyle,” says Leonard Teplin, director of Marshall White Living.

“We’re social creatures,” he says. “People don’t want to be left alone. They want to be somewhere where they can socialise, where there is an energy.”

Teplin says The Grace, a collection of one, two and three-bedroom apartments by Australian Unity and marketed by Marshall White Living, is a unique example of luxury living designed exclusively for Australians over 55.

The 18-level building, which overlooks Albert Park Lake, has apartments for retirees who want the security and lock-and-leave lifestyle of apartment living without the maintenance issues that come with home ownership.

Designed by high-profile Melbourne company Fender Katsalidis, The Grace has several shared spaces such as a piano lounge, clubs and pool, as well as a building manager who can organise tradespeople, package pick-up and car service.

“It’s peace of mind,” Teplin says. “There are no students, no investors, no Airbnbs. You’re moving into a community with other people at the same stage of life who have similar needs and interests.”