Relocation – moving to a new home – is the course chosen by many seniors who are seeking the best situation in which to age in place.
Perhaps your senior’s house is too big, too small, too isolated, too far from family members or too old and costly to update. Maybe they just want to live in a new geographic location.
The best option for them to meet their aging in place needs may be that they will benefit from a move to a new location, different neighborhood, a development such as a NORC or a new state closer to family!
You might have to help with the decision making or at the very least information gathering about what options are going to best meet their needs.
You might also be the one to do the heavy lifting, packing and toting!
What to Look For In a New Living Arrangement
There are a wide variety of communities that can accommodate a senior who wishes to age in place and housing options that have universal designs to make them aging in place appropriate.
Here are a few things to consider when helping senior loved ones decide if their current home is right and then if they decide to look for a more suitable place to call home.
- Accessibility in the home and the community – will the home be safe and usable as your senior loved one continues to age? Are the halls and doorways wide enough for a wheelchair? Are there steps to living spaces? Is it in good repair free from loose floorboards and other trip hazards? Can it be upgraded or renovated to achieve universal design? Is the community suitable for older adults? Is it designed with seniors in mind? Will their needs be able to be met in this neighborhood?
- Affordability – Can they afford the mortgage, homeowner’s fees, taxes and other costs associated with their current home? If they don’t currently pay fees, keep those in mind for evaluation of potential new homes. Is it in a golf community that served them well after retirement but now is money paid out with no return as they can no longer golf? Can they afford the costs of renovations if they are required for safe aging in place?
- Transportation – Is there public transportation available in the town or neighborhood when they can no longer drive? Are there car services or senior transportation that they can hire if they no longer are safe behind the wheel? Are there family or friends who can drive them around nearby in this home?
- Healthcare – Are there healthcare organizations, doctors, professionals, pharmacies, outpatient services and emergency rooms within close contact for their health and wellness needs? How far they are from the nearest emergency room is important if they have a fall, heart attack or stroke.
- Peers – Do they have people their age and with similar interests near them? Is there a church where they can socialize, a senior center or a dance club within close proximity so they can interact and stay stimulated?
- Volunteerism and Social Engagement – Is the community able to support them if they choose to volunteer or remain socially engaged? One of the keys to successful aging is remaining mentally and physically engaged and should be considered.
- Family proximity – Are there any family members within easy reach if trouble occurs or just to visit? It is nice if there is someone who can check in on senior loved ones (even if it is not a family member) to be sure they are OK.
Helping Senior Loved Ones Move
Many of our senior loved ones who have decided to move to a new location will have to downsize their stuff. Makes sense right? Years of accumulation need to be moved! Oh no!
There may be a lifetime of not just memories but memorabilia, boxes of stuff that haven’t been opened in twenty years, old clothes, lawn equipment, appliances, years of documents dating back to the dawn of time (their time, at least) and stuff on top of stuff that they ‘may need someday’ like plastic bags, pieces of tinfoil, twist ties, old paint, caulk, wood scraps, nails, magazines, and pencils. You know – you’ve opened the junk drawer in the kitchen and looked into the garage, basement or attic. It’s there alright!
Beware! Anything they don’t want to donate, sell or discard, will be packed up and carried to another basement or garage!
When you move the furniture out you will find more lost treasures hiding in the recesses of the cushions, corners and undersides (and maybe some cobwebs and spider eggs!).
How do I know this? I just moved my own parents across the country! Thirty five years of accumulated stuff (some junk, some not) fills a moving truck very fast!
It is best to avoid the urge to take some of the stuff to your own house where you will store it in your basement and garage never to be used again. Be careful when you decide what to keep and what to donate too. Be sure you keep your senior loved ones in the conversation, don’t throw things out without their input. This will only lead to major problems down the road when what you thought was useless is priceless to them.
Discuss the potential use of certain items, the sentimental value, the place it will take up (or have no place) in a new location and their willingness to donate for others to use. If there is no place to store it or place an item, your loved ones may be more willing to let it go than if they think it will fit somewhere. Try to convince them to keep only the basics in terms of furniture, clothing, household goods they are capable of using in the short term and any valuable pieces with true meaning. Take care of those items and donate or sell the others.
Plan & Implement Downsizing in Advance
Keep in mind that many years of storage and house stuffing will take time to downsize. It will be difficult to discuss all these items and get the job done in one week. As soon as they begin considering a move to another place, it is time to start this process. Slow de-cluttering will be easier than trying to do the whole house one week before the house is sold!
Remain flexible and sensitive in your approach; these items are personal to your senior loved one. Remember that how you say things and what you say, your body language and mannerisms can wound them. They don’t think their musty old couch with the coffee stains should be given away, to them it is as beautiful as the day they brought it home.
Enlist as many family members or friends in the packing, loading and unloading tasks. Your senior loved one is probably beyond being able to help a great deal more than supervising the job. You may also want to consider a moving company if the cost is not too prohibitive as this will make things easier for everyone.
Good Time for Other Discussions
If time permits, take the opportunity to discuss with your senior loved ones a variety of things. One thing to talk about is family history. Who owned that piece of furniture or picture, where did they get it, how did it change hands, who is in the photo and all other relevant items about their life and growing up years that you may not know.
Another topic to discuss is what happens next? Do they have any thoughts about where they want to go if this house isn’t the last stop? What if they need more care and a facility is necessary? Do they have advance directives executed and do all the family members know of their wishes?
Use each thing that happens as a way to open the door of discussion about things that they might not want to talk about when you visit but will now discuss as part of a new transition.
Another bit of information you can learn at this transition time is their financial status. Is there a power of attorney for finances? Do you know where their accounts are kept and how to access them if needed? No one likes to talk about money, but it is good to know a little about where to start when financial help is necessary.
This can be a time of renewal, joy, excitement or grief. How you handle it and ease your senior loved one through this daunting process will help get the job done easier. Relax and take a deep breath when it is all over.
Do you have any tips to share about your moving experience? We would love to hear them!