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General Information

So you're thinking of moving to Florida. Since 1980, Florida's population has grown an average of 873 new residents daily. Many of those newcomers have been among the ranks of the retired ? perhaps fulfilling a life-long dream to live closer to family and friends, or seeking a warmer climate. Many older individuals considering relocation to Florida contact the Department of Elder Affairs for information about transitioning to life in the Sunshine State.

When preparing for a move, younger families usually have a priority checklist which they use to decide on a new area, including such things as good schools, reasonable driving time to work, nearby parks and playgrounds, safe neighborhoods, etc. Older people have some of these same needs, as well as others that are particularly relevant in the retirement years. Consider the checklist below. Perhaps it will prompt thinking in an area of interest or concern which you had not previously considered.

  • What will be the employment opportunities for a second career or the volunteer opportunities in my areas of interest and experience in the new location?
  • For individuals receiving Supplemental Security income and/or other state supplements, how will monthly income amounts be affected? 
  • Does someone in the family have a medical need which requires specialized treatment and how will the new location be able to accommodate that need? 
  • Will my current health insurance benefits transfer to the new location?
  • Will my legal directives, such as my will, living will, health care surrogate and other advance directives be honored?
  • Have funeral arrangements been made and prepaid? Is the policy "portable," meaning will it be valid in another state? Do family members know how things are to be handled when the time comes?

Whether moving from one state to another or from one part of a state to another is a big decision that requires research. Throughout this packet are suggested sources of information. For instance, the state Chamber of Commerce can put you in touch with a local chamber if you write or call:

Florida Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 11309
136 Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL  32302
850- 521-1200

Many local Chambers have newcomers' guides, housing lists, and city maps available upon request.

The daily newspaper is a good resource for an overview of an area. It can provide information about an area's economy, quality of life, cultural events, political atmosphere, along with classified advertising for housing and employment data.

Remember to use your public library as a resource. Books on retirement communities are usually available there, as well as some of the major daily newspapers.

 

Establishing Legal Residency

To become a resident of Florida, a person must establish a home or a permanent dwelling place and demonstrate the intent to make Florida the place of permanent legal residence. There is no fixed waiting period required before a person can become a resident. Simply produce proof of intent to establish residence by filing a sworn statement with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where your new residence is located. There is a fee, and a driver's license or other picture identification is required for recording the affidavit.

The residency period required to establish eligibility for the following may be determined from the date the statement is filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

  1. State or County Employment:  There is no residency requirement for employment with most state or county government agencies; however, preference may be given to Florida residents.
  2. Homestead Exemption:  Florida residents are entitled to property tax exemptions of up to $25,000 on the assessed value of owner-or dependent-occupied homesteads. An application must be filed with the County Property Appraiser between January and March of the tax year in order to receive these exemptions.
  3. Voting and Jury Duty : Any person who is 18 years of age or older, a citizen of the United States, and a permanent resident of Florida and of the county where he or she wishes to qualify to vote, may register with the Supervisor of Elections when the voter registration books are open. The books close 30 days before an election and reopen following the election. Persons selected for jury duty are taken from the roll of registered voters.
  4. School Tuition Fees:  Pupils in grades kindergarten through 12 whose parents or guardians are nonresidents of Florida should have a written Agreement of Transfer of Schools and may be charged a tuition fee payable at the time the pupil is enrolled. Tuition will be waived if a parent or guardian has lived in Florida more than one year, has purchased a home in Florida which is occupied as their residence prior to the enrollment of the child (or children) in school, and has filed an affidavit of domicile in the county where the child is enrolled. Fees may also be waived for certain individuals, such as military personnel. In order to qualify for in-state tuition fees at the state's public universities and community colleges, a student (or parent or guardian, if the student is a dependent) must have resided in Florida for 12 consecutive months prior to enrollment.
  5. Eligibility for Dissolution of Marriage:  To obtain a divorce, one of the parties to the marriage must have lived in Florida for six months prior to filing the petition.
  6. Candidacy for Public Office:  All candidates for office must be U.S. citizens and registered voters in Florida. Candidates for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Florida Cabinet must be at least 30 and have been a Florida resident for the preceding seven years. Any candidate for the Florida Legislature must be at least 21 and a resident of the district he or she wishes to represent. A candidate for local office must be a resident of the appropriate district.
  7. Driver's License:  To operate a motor vehicle in the state, new residents are required to obtain a Florida driver's license within 30 days of accepting gainful employment, entering children in public schools, registering to vote, or filing for homestead exemption. Full-time nonresident students are exempt from this requirement.
  8. Motor Vehicle Registration:  To operate a motor vehicle on roads in the state, new residents are required to register their motor vehicles within 10 days of accepting gainful employment, entering children in public schools, registering to vote, or filing for the homestead exemption. Full-time nonresident college students are exempt from this requirement.
  9. Noncommercial Fishing and Hunting Licenses:  To qualify for resident statewide licenses, a person must have resided continuously for six months in Florida. Armed services personnel stationed in Florida and students enrolled in colleges and universities in the state are considered residents.

Retirement in Florida

Florida's elder population (people 60 years of age and older) has grown to over twenty three percent of the state's total population. The counties with the largest percentages of people age 65 and older are Charlotte (35%), Highlands (33%), Citrus (32%), and Sarasota (31%).

Retired life in Florida varies according to individual preferences and budgets. Experts suggest that a potential retiree should travel throughout the state, renting rather than buying for the firstyear, before making a decision about a permanent residence. This allows a person to find a community that provides opportunities for participating in those leisure interests developed earlier in life or those hobbies he or she may have always wished to develop.

Climate

As the southernmost state on the U.S. mainland, Florida's climate ranges from temperate in the north to subtropical in the south. Winter temperatures range from an average of 51 degrees F in the north to 70 degrees F along the southern Atlantic coast. Average summer temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout the state, ranging in the mid-to-low 80s. Precipitation averages about 50 inches annually, with most of the rain occurring during the summer months. The year-round semi-tropical climate, moderate rainfall, abundant sunshine, fresh and sea waters, and freedom from the heavy frost, snow and ice all combine to make Florida an appealing place to live.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs does provide a Disaster Preparedness Guide for those who are unaccustomed to hurricanes and related weather.

 

Consumer Protection

Florida cares very much for the welfare of its citizens and makes every effort to educate them in consumerism and advocate on their behalf when needed. Below is a sampling of consumer help lines.

Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities
Provides protection and advocacy services. ACPD's mission is to advance the dignity, equality, self-determination and expressed choices of individuals with disabilities.

2671 Executive Center Circle W Suite 100
Tallahassee, FL 32301
1-800-342-0823 (in Florida)
850-488-9071 (out-of-state)

Agency for Health Care Administration
Provides information about licensure of health care facilities, accept and investigate possible rule or statutory violations by health care practitioners and conducts statutorily mandated inspections of certain facilities.

850- 414-7209
Consumer Call Center
(888) 419-3456

Agriculture and Consumer Services
Offers consumer information and processes complaints dealing with the purchase of consumer goods and services.

1-800-435-7352 (in Florida)
850-488-2221 (out-of-state)

Banking and Finance
Provides information and processes complaints regarding financial institutions, investment firms, securities, etc.

1-800-848-3792 (in Florida)
850-410-9286 (out-of-state)

Blind Services (Division of)
Empowers people who are blind and visually impaired to reach self-determined goals.

1-800-342-1828 (in Florida)
850-488-1330 (out-of-state)

Business and Professional Regulation
Provides information and processes complaints regarding certain licensed professionals such as engineers, electrical contractors, and funeral directors.

850-487-1395

Department of Finance
Oversees the state's accounting and auditing functions and helps consumers with problems related to financial services, including banking, securities and insurance.

Division of Consumer Services
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0322

1-800-342-2762 (in Florida)
850-413-3100 (out-of-state)

Elder Helpline Information and Referral
Provides information about senior programas and services
1-800-96 Elder (1-800-963-5337)

Florida Relay Service
Provides telephone communication between people who use a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) and people who use standard telephones. The service can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

1-800-955-8771 (TDD in Florida)
1-800-955-8770 (Voice in Florida)
1-877-955-8773 (espaņol)

Florida Telecommunication Relay
Offers a statewide equipment distribution program that provides specialized telecommunications devices, free of charge, to deaf, hard of hearing, speech and dual-sensory impaired residents of Florida.

1-800-222-3448

Governor's Citizen's Assistance
Serves as a connection to the Governor and his staff.
Office of the Governor
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

850-488-4441

Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Consumer Service Center
Neil Kirkman Building
2900 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahasse, FL 32399-0500

850-617-2000


Library Services of the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Provides information and reading materials needed by Florida Residents who are unable to use standard print as the result of visual, physical, or reading disabilities.

1-800-226-6075 (in Florida)
904-239-6000 (out-of-state)

Public Service Commission
Assistance with complaints against a public utility company.

 1-800-342-3552 (in Florida)
850-413-6100 (out-of-state)

Social Security Eligibility and Enrollment Information
Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
Windsor Park Building
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235

1-800-772-1213

Veterans' Information
U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs
9500 Bay Pines Boulevard
St. Petersburg, FL 33708

1-800-827-1000
727-319-7400

 

Cost of Living

Because Florida has less severe winters than many other parts of the country, consumers  usually spend less on heavy clothing and fuel. Otherwise, depending on personal taste and standard of living, the cost of living in Florida is comparable to other states. According to the Governor's Office of  Planning and Budgeting, prices are generally higher in the southern half of the state.

There is no state income tax in Florida. To alleviate the property tax burden, Florida grants its homeowners relief under a homestead exemption provision. This exemption is available to any person who holds legal title to real property in Florida and uses the property as his/her permanent residence. Florida's unique Homestead Property Tax Deferral Act permits the real estate tax on a residence that qualifies under the homestead exemption statute to be deferred.

For more information on Florida taxes, contact Department of Revenue, Tax Information Services, 1379 Blountstown Highway, Tallahassee, Fl 32304-2716 or call 1-800-352-3671 (Florida only) or 850-488-6800.

 

Employment

For older individuals seeking employment in Florida there are a number of resources available and many steps that can be taken before moving to the state.

Older workers can conduct a self-directed job search through the classified help wanted ads in newspapers from the area where one is relocating or use the vast  network of employment services offered by the state. The Agency for Workforce Innovation administers programs like the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is a part-time employment program for low-income persons age 55 or over. Information about employement programs targeting elders can also be found on the Department of Elder Affairs website.

In order to provide integrated and more efficient customer-oriented services, Florida, like other states, has expanded its one-stop system, which provides employers and job seekers with convenient and all-inclusive services. There is at least one physical location in each area of the state. New job seekers in Florida should make the one-stop their first stop. Consult the local phone directory for the address of the one-stop or state employment service office. The one-stop system is accessible electronically through a series of local area networks and wide area networks. All of the local and regional Jobs & Benefits offices, state offices and employment and training organizations, including older worker programs such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program, can be located through web sites. There are also links to America's Job Bank (public employment nationwide), federal jobs, Florida state jobs and job search.

 

Education

As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, Florida has embraced the challenge of educational excellence. Post-secondary education is accessible in almost every part of the state. Florida residents may attend one of nine state-supported universities or twenty-eight state-supported community colleges. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida has the largest number of adult education students in the nation with over 60,000 enrolled adults. Florida State University System provides space-available audit courses with fees waived to those 60 years of age and older.

Health Care

The State of Florida has the following:

  • 272 hospitals (2001)
  • 746 nursing homes (2001)
  • 35,591 physicians (2001)
  • 10,200 dentists (2001)
Medical costs are comparative to those in other states.

For health care information in Florida, contact the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). AHCA provides health care cost information, free brochures on hospital, doctor, and/or nursing home charges and advocacy regarding hospital bills. To order material,  such as Guide to Nursing Home Charges in Florida, call or write:

Agency for Health Care Administration
The Information Center
2727 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308-5403
1-888-419-3456 (in Florida)

Also, to speak to someone about a quality of care and/or billing problem with a Florida hospital or other health care facility, call 850- 922-3809.

First Coast Service Options, Inc. (FCSOI), the state's Medicare carrier, publishes a directory which contains the names and addresses for all physicians/suppliers who filed participation agreements with Medicare. Beneficiaries may obtain a copy of the "MEDPARD" directory, free of charge, by writing or calling FCSOI:

First Coast Service Options, Inc. (FCSOI)
Health Services Data MEDPARD
P.O. Box 2360
Jacksonville, FL  32231
1-800-926-6565 (in Florida)
1-904-355-3680 (out-of-state)

For information for Alzheimer's Disease victims and their caregivers, contact:

Suncoast Alzheimer's Information Line
1-800-633-4563 (in Florida)
 813-974-4355 (out-of-state)
http://hsc.usf.edu/suncoast/alzheimer/sail.htm

4751 Bonita Bay Blvd.
Bonita Springs, FL 34134
(239) 495-8691

Fax:239-495-9186