As senior citizens age, their health and lifestyle needs change, sometimes necessitating a change in their retirement living plans. They may grow tired of caring for a large home, or they may face unexpected health concerns that require more daily assistance, or they simply may want a more care-free living environment. Whatever the catalyst, real life changes may need to take place.
While some senior citizens will welcome the move into a smaller home or into an independent or assisted living community, others may be less enthusiastic. They may be hesitant to leave the home where they raised their families, enjoyed their neighbors, or tended to their gardens. They may worry about losing their independence, or about not fitting into their new community.
“Senior citizens, like all individuals, have unique needs and varying levels of ability to handle change, which all needs to be considered when they face major transitions like moving,” said Kathy Ryan, executive director at The Saybrook at Haddam retirement and assisted living community in Haddam. “Additionally, most seniors want to be fully involved in the process of planning for change. It is important that family allows seniors take a primary role in deciding where they live, when they move, and how their care plan is developed.”
This process can be smooth, especially when families communicate and listen to the needs and desires of their loved ones. Ryan offers the following tips to help families and senior citizens best manage times of transition:
• Take time to fully plan. Transitions are best when done slowly and purposely. Work with your loved one early on to plan out their living arrangements. Assure them that they are the ones making the choices, and that they are not being rushed into anything they are not ready for.
• Help them downsize. A move will result in less living space – and storage –for your loved one. This means they will need to decide which belongings to take with them, which to give away to family or to charity, and which to sell. Help them organize and move items so it is less overwhelming.
• Know your resources. We are fortunate to have many local businesses, churches, and social services in our communities that can help seniors through transitions. Research what is available and what might help your loved one with their specific needs. Ask friends, relatives, and other seniors for references.
• Focus on the positive. A smaller home means much less work and expense. If your loved one is moving to a senior community, he or she no longer need to worry about shoveling snow, cutting the lawn, painting the house, or cleaning the gutters. Depending on the community, they may not even have to shop for food or cook meals each day – and they will be able to enjoy a sense of security and peace knowing someone is always nearby if there ever is an emergency.
• Celebrate the move. Have a card or small “care package” arrive the day your loved one makes the move. If you can, join them for a welcome visit to share lunch or dinner right away (remember to set up a date for the next visit before you leave). Also, if they do move into an assisted living residence, try to attend one or two social events held at the community together.
Following these suggestions, family and friends are best able to help their loved ones make a smooth transition – and start a new adventure, another chapter in their lives. Soon, they will enjoy a more relaxed daily schedule that hopefully will include time with friends, new activities, and daily walks and exercise, and more. It is wonderful when the journey to that time in a senior’s life is well planned with the ones they love and trust the most.