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Talking with Seniors About Moving: Tips for a Positive Conversation

Ray loved his home. He’d lived there with his wife Doreen for over 50 years. He knew every creaky spot on the hardwood floor, every crack in the walls, and every mark on the bathroom door where Doreen had recorded the heights of his growing children.

Talking With Seniors About MovingRay loved his home. He’d lived there with his wife Doreen for over 50 years. He knew every creaky spot on the hardwood floor, every crack in the walls, and every mark on the bathroom door where Doreen had recorded the heights of his growing children.
Since Doreen’s passing, Ray’s children had been discussing talking to their father about moving to a place closer to them that was smaller and didn’t require so much maintenance. Ray was getting older, after all, and he certainly had more trouble cleaning the house, navigating the stairs, and tending to the yard than he once did.

Ray’s children knew, however, that the thought of leaving his precious home would cause him distress. The last thing they wanted to do was make their father upset. So, after doing some research about talking with seniors about moving, Ray’s children felt more equipped to have a positive conversation with their father.
Talking with seniors about moving is usually not an easy task. But if your aging loved one is living in a home that is too large and difficult for them to maintain or navigate, it may be time to consider moving to a smaller, safer, more manageable home, closer to family and services. So let’s explore some tips for how to go about having that conversation in a loving and respectful way.

Tips for Talking with Seniors About Moving from their Home

Downsizing is a logical, practical step for most aging adults. The large homes that were ideal in their younger years require a lot of upkeep and can often present challenges for aging in place, including risks to safety. Plus, as your loved one ages it is nice to have them live closer to you so that you can spend more time with them and assist in caretaking. The problem, however, is that many aging adults—like anyone—may be resistant to the idea of moving from the home they so love.
If the conversation about moving isn’t approached in the right way your aging loved one may not respond well to the idea. Since it is such a sensitive subject, it’s a good idea to proceed gently in a way that won’t make your loved one upset. Here are a few tips for talking with seniors about moving from their home to a smaller dwelling that can help make the conversation smoother:

  • Get Involved: From your aging loved one’s perspective, it may seem unfair to hear that they should move if you aren’t familiar with how they live. It’s important that you understand the challenges they face in their home if you are planning on suggesting that they move. If you don’t know much about your loved one’s living conditions and daily routine, offer to help spend more time with them in their home in order to get a better sense of how they live. They are much more likely to listen to the conversation about moving if they know you’ve witnessed their struggles.
  • Reminisce: Talk to your aging loved one about their home to get a sense of what it means to them. Not only is this is helpful in gauging the future conversation about moving, it’s also important to acknowledge how important their home is. If you get a sense of what features or aspects of their home are important to them, you may be more successful at helping them find a dwelling that shares some of those features. If they love their neighborhood, for instance, you could consider looking for more liveable condos or apartments close by.
  • Present the Benefits: If your loved one is resistant to moving, chances are high that they only see the disadvantages. It’s up to you to present potential benefits to them. Perhaps they could move closer to their grandchildren, or maybe they could find a place with a view of the waterfront. Discuss how much less upkeep a smaller condo or apartment would be for them, and how much easier it would be to navigate a place without stairs. Of course, the financial incentive for them to sell their house and downsize may also not be something they’ve considered but could make a big difference for their future.

It is important to make sure that you involve your aging loved one in the apartment or condo-hunting process too. Offer to take them to showings and help them find something they love. While it may be tempting to want to rush your aging loved one into making a decision about moving, it’s important that you give them time to consider their options. The gentler and more patient you are, the better the chance that they will be open to your suggestions. Also, remember that they may have needs you haven’t considered and it’s critical to listen to them and respect their preferences; being older doesn’t mean you stop having control of your own life. Remember that moving at any age is stressful, but moving in old age can be even more difficult.

Alternative Ideas for Aging in Place

If you’ve tried all of the above suggestions and you still find that your aging loved one is resistant to the idea of moving, perhaps there are ways you can support your aging loved one in staying in their home. Modifying accommodations for safety and comfort, for example, can help ensure your loved one’s home is more appropriate for aging in place. Adding handrails to staircases, improving lighting, and upgrading the kitchen for aging in place are just a few things you can do that will make it easier for them to live in their home.  Regular home safety evaluations can also be a great way to protect your loved one and give you peace of mind that they will be safe.
You may also want to consider home care or programs and services that help your aging loved one with daily living tasks. Some programs and services, like Institute on Aging’s Community Living Services, encourage independent living by coordinating local services for aging adults so that they can stay connected to their community while living independently.
As reluctant as he was to move from his home at first, Ray eventually came around to the idea of moving to a smaller condo near his children. While the transition took some getting used to, Ray loved being able to see his grandkids every day, having meals with his family, and making friends in his new neighborhood. Even at his age, starting fresh felt good.
Institute on Aging is proud to offer a variety of services and programs for aging adults living independently in the community. To learn more, contact us today.

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