After deciding to make a later-life move, Nell Plotnikoff is happy she did – and she isn’t looking back. Photo: Cathy Walker
Most people consider moving house one of their least favourite things to do. Hauling all of your worldly possessions across town is difficult enough, but moving to a new city where you will have to make new friends, find new doctors and dentists, and even figure out the best place to buy groceries, can be so daunting that many avoid it.
Not so for Nell Plotnikoff, who made a move last year from Nelson to Maple Ridge. “It gave me an opportunity to learn an important life lesson,” she says. “I think moving creates new starting points and a chance to pause and reset our lives.”
Two of Nell's daughters had been living in the Lower Mainland (the third in Winnipeg), and she had enjoyed visiting them several times a year. "I enjoyed getting my Big City fix," she says, "and then returning to my home and lifestyle in the Kootenays. But when the grandchildren started coming into my life, there were greater tugs at my heart, pulling me to be near them, to watch them grow and change and to become a part of their lives. However, I still couldn't see myself adapting to the congestion and busy lifestyles of the larger parts of Metro Vancouver, and how could I leave 73 years of my life in the Kootenay and Slocan areas – my friends, relatives and community? Except for two years of living and teaching in Victoria, I was a Kootenay-ite.”
Then, one daughter and her family moved from New Westminster to Maple Ridge, and after a visit with them Nell thought, "Perhaps I can do this. Maple Ridge offers the mountains, the rivers, the farmland, and has somewhat of a small town feel – not too exhausting for retired folks like myself."
So, back to Nelson she went, put her condo up for sale, and returned to Maple Ridge where a great realtor helped her find a centrally-located condo close to downtown amenities and hiking trails, a passion of Nell's.
"And then the packing began," says Nell. "Just four years previously, I had downsized from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom condo, so the packing actually went lickety-split. For the move itself, I think the movers were more stressed than I was because their truck barely got through on the highway near Grand Forks before a closure due to a forest fire. Then their truck broke down in Princeton, so they had to transfer all of my belongings to a rental truck!"
The difficulty of leaving friends was made slightly easier for Nell by the fact that she knew a month after the move she would be going back to Nelson to "tie up loose ends" – things like appointments with the doctor and dentist, and also a big farewell potluck with a large group of friends, which helped give some closure.
“And since my move to Maple Ridge,” says Nell, “I’ve enjoyed visits from several Kootenay friends, plus I’ve gone back for two visits myself. Each time they or I leave, however, I still go through a ‘missing you’ stage. But it’s easy to stay in touch with emails and phone calls; and by reading local newspapers online, I can even know what event my Kootenay friends will be attending!”
About making new friends, Nell shares, “I feel that I made the decision to move at the right time. I’m still very healthy and active and therefore able to get out and do things – to become involved in the community and to make new friends. I enjoy being around people. Maple Ridge already feels like home.”
Another factor that has helped Nell settle into her community is that she has been able to help her daughter’s family with occasional gardening and childminding. She also participates in her grandsons’ activities (school, sports, piano, etc.), which she says, “makes me still feel useful, and maybe youthful! I also volunteer at their school library. After 13 years of being retired, I was pleasantly surprised at how happy I am to be a librarian again – sort of a professional identity, although now I’m a ‘grandma librarian,’ but ‘grandma’ is a proud title!”
As for the key to a successful move, Nell shares, “I really believe that you must embrace your community. I enjoyed being involved in community projects and activities while living in the Kootenays and quickly looked for and found parallel groups and things to do in Maple Ridge: things like a naturalist group, hiking group and volunteering at an arts centre.”
When asked if she was afraid she might regret the move, Nell thoughtfully responds, "Yes and no, not really. I usually can handle change fairly well once I've made up my mind. At first, when I met new people and said I had moved from Nelson, many would say 'how could you leave such a beautiful area?' At times, I would ask myself that, but more and more, I began to feel that I moved from one beautiful place to another. Having said that, had my daughters and their families lived in the Kootenay area, there would have been no need to move. But they are here, and here is where my heart – and home – is now.”
Nell’s Tips for Making a Successful Move
- Once you resolve to go, moving is the first step, but after that you have to trust that everything will fall into place.
-Find a trusty realtor who knows your new city well. Be honest with your wants and needs. A good realtor will help address these needs.
-Hire a reliable mover! Mine was remarkable dealing with several stressful "happenings."
-Recognize that we carry our homes with us. Unpack as soon as possible and make your new house a home.
-Make friends with your new neighbours. They can be a great source of information about available resources, etc.
- To simply put it in a nutshell, Dr. Seuss said it well: “You're off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”
february 2016 INSPIRED senior living
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