Coastal Seniors and Climate Change: Retirement Dreams Threatened As Coastal Living Increasingly Risky

For many people in coastal areas around the country, raising a home on stilts can save it from flood waters. But, for seniors, an additional flight of stairs may not be possible because of limited mobility. (Heather Goldstone/CAI)

When Nelson Orr, 70, retired from his job as an X-ray tech at a Boston hospital, he knew what would come next. He and wife moved full-time into their gray-shingled beachfront home in the town of Barnstable, embracing its original exposed beams and decorating with an old wooden carousel horse in the entranceway.

“This is my great grandfather’s house that was originally built down here — one of the first — and it’s been passed down through the family,” Orr said on a recent sunny day in his living room. “It was built in the 1920s.”

But lately, things have changed.

“Well, traditionally, the house would get flooded in hurricanes — big hurricanes. The water would come up to the driveway, breach the driveway and then go into the basement to the tune of four or five feet. But it was kind of a rare occurrence,” Orr said. “But lately, I would say due to climate change, water levels are higher and we could get flooded with smaller storms.”

Last summer, Orr moved his heating system upstairs after flooding destroyed several furnaces, and renovated the driveway so that it slopes upward to prevent additional basement flooding. Now, he’s going a step further. He’s considering buying an apartment in the Greater Boston area for easier access to doctors’ appointments, and as a safe haven in case of a major storm.

Read the rest of the story at CAI’s website.