Starting Over at 70 in Paris, France

As you move southeast of Paris, the River Seine becomes more and more like a setting from a children’s book. Beds of rustling reeds soften the banks, green swathes of wildflower-studded meadow grass wave in the river breeze, and willow trees bend over the water with sunlight peeping through their finger-like leaves.

It all serves as daily inspiration to Janice Deerwester, an ex-teacher from Texas who now calls this exquisite historical corner of the Paris basin home. So much so that she is busy writing a children’s book. That’s when she’s not perusing the boulevards of the city for high fashion, beautiful shoes, or the best croissant in town. In fact, daily life for Janice is so photogenic that she films her adventures in Paris for her YouTube channel, JaniceinFrance, posting them weekly.

That’s all commonplace, nowadays, when TikTok and Instagram accounts document every waking moment of every bright young thing’s life. Janice is 70, single, and thriving in her new setting.

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“I can live comfortably on $2,000 a month here. It’s not expensive to live here at all. You can spend a lot of money on clothes and shoes, sure. I know I do. But food and vegetables are way cheaper here than in the U.S. I pay $75 a month for a travel pass that takes me all around Paris as much as I like. And I feel safe doing so. That’s the big difference I feel living here, compared with the U.S. I don’t live in fear, I have no issue with being out at night.”

I’ve found passion and purpose living in France.

Moving to France with two pets (a cat and a dog) was a big step, but ultimately, it was something Janice felt she needed to do. When her husband passed away in 2012, she was working as a teacher and counselor in California. But there was a nagging doubt in her mind, a constant questioning over whether she was living her life as fully as she could be. Was she letting life pass her by?

On a six-week trip to Europe in 2018, the answer was clear. Janice loved Italy, was enchanted by France, but when she saw Fontainebleau, the historic suburb of Paris famous for its ornate chateau, she just knew she had to live there.

“I love it here. I love the buildings, the history. It’s important to find somewhere that really fulfills you. I really want to encourage people, women especially, to just get up and go. If you have a dream about living somewhere, make it happen. I was done with letting life lead me, I came here partly as a way of taking control of my life, of finding passion and purpose.”

Janice acknowledges that it’s tough to take life-changing decisions at or near retirement age, but feels that we’re conditioned to think things are more difficult than they actually are.

“Getting the two animals here was a little tricky, since the airlines allow you only one animal on the plane, but I just bought my daughter a ticket and she accompanied me here for the first little while. And she was able to travel with the second pet. Every problem is surmountable.

“I didn’t want to wake up one day, in an old-folks’ home, wishing that I’d followed my dream and regretting that I didn’t. You have to look to the future. I’m 70, I have to do what works for me. There’s not a thing you can do about the past, so you have to live in the future.”

Although her reasons for moving out of the U.S. weren’t financial—Janice has two pensions from her teaching work over the years, as well as her Social Security payments—her outgoings are less in Europe than she expected.

“My daughter is paying $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta, and she has utilities and HOA to pay on top of that. Here, I’ve got a lovely condo with an outdoor deck, a small kitchen—which is fine by me—a living room, and a spare room where I keep all my clothes (I’m a clothes-holic). Most important for me, is that I have an elevator. I had surgery on my knee a little while ago, and my dog has a weak heart, so there was no way that we could manage stairs. And all my utilities are included.”

Healthcare, too, is a savings. “I’ve been to the doctor a couple of times, not for treatment, but just to renew medications. That cost $32 each time, just out of pocket. In the States, I was paying $175 a month to supplement my Medicare. Here, I have a private insurance policy that sets me back about $460 a year. It’s basic, but it’s all I need right now. And the care here is amazing. I’ve seen the care they give older people, and it’s so good, so genuinely caring.”

In fact, the way older people are treated in French society has been the most pleasant surprise for Janice since she’s made the move. “I’ve never been respected so much as I am here. They have manners. When I take a bus or a subway, people will give up their seat for me. I get so mad when I hear people describe Parisians as rude. It’s just not the case. They’re the friendliest people I know. When you smile, and you’re kind… it’s just going to work for you.”

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