The Psychology Of Moving When You're a Senior

By Rick Hoogendoorn

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Many people can expect to move several times during their senior years. One such happier circumstance occurs when people move closer to family, particularly grandchildren. Even the most happily settled grandparents will sometimes pick up and move clean across the country when the grandchildren move away. These grandchildren can be tiny but powerful magnets.

Seniors will often choose to move because their current house and garden have become more of a burden than a joy to maintain. Downsizing from a larger house to a smaller house, condo, or retirement community is a very common reason to move. People who are clear about their own changing abilities often find making the decision to move much easier.

But there is a big difference between wanting to move and thinking you should. There is a big difference between wanting to move and having to deal with other people who think you should! Selling your home and moving is a difficult enough chore even when you actually want to sell your home.

Clearly, the people who have the easiest time moving are those who want to move. They have a clear idea of where they want to go and why. The process may be difficult at times but they stay focused on what they want in the end.

By contrast, people who have a more difficult time selling their home and moving are those who don't want to move but think they should. These are often people who have lived in their home for a long period of time, are very comfortable in these familiar surroundings, but may recognize it's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the property.

One thing that keeps these people from taking action is the fact they focus on the process of moving, rather than the outcome of moving. The entire process can be quite overwhelming. Thinking of all the things that need to be dealt with, given away, donated, stored, brought along, or discarded is enough to cause even the most resolute person to freeze up. Furthermore, people can also be paralyzed by the unknown. The home they live in is familiar. What's 'out there' is not.

Some downsizing companies have learned the best way to help a senior client along with a move is to have them move first and deal with the downsizing and selling of their home afterward. The only decisions to make, then, have to do with where you're going and what you're taking with you. Everything else is 'put off'. This easier first step gets things in motion and it is easier to keep them in motion afterward. Wouldn't you be less resistant to selling your home if you didn't live in it anymore?

Some seniors go through a grieving period when they finally decide to sell their home. Our homes are filled with memories. The longer we've lived in them, the more memories we've accumulated and the more it may seem that the house we live in is 'a part of us'. There is nothing wrong with wanting to remain in your own home. It's okay to love it. It's even okay to love it and move on anyway.

For some seniors, the home they live in is the home where their children grew up. Some people see a connection between their home and a wife or husband who has since passed on. If they sell their home, will they lose that connection, or some of those memories? Many people can't even articulate why their home means so much to them. And they're afraid that if they talk about it too much they'll be talked into moving.

Younger people rarely experience a conversation about their need to sell their house. They've never imagined what it would be like to be told they need to sell 'for their own good'.

Remember that you have the final decision. It's your life, and unless you are in a situation where you or some other member of your household is in some kind of danger, or your health or financial situation is so bad that you cannot be care for at home, if you don't want to move and you don't think you should move, don't move.

Now, if you would rather not move but you recognize it would be better if you did, that's a different story.

And again, you may be focusing on the process, instead of the outcome. You may be imagining yourself unhappy in your new place of residence when it's entirely possible it will grow on you and you'll be happy there.

There is something to be said for choosing to move when you can, rather than waiting until you are forced to. It is a part of life that our health fails as we get older. Sometimes it's gradual, sometimes not. Being forced to sell your home because of a sudden decline in health isn't, in itself, very healthy. There is much to think about when considering any kind of move. Know that you're going to be faced with a whole range of emotions, and sometimes you're going to second guess yourself. Just remember to focus on the end result, instead of the process.

The most important thing you can do, is be honest with yourself about your needs and capabilities both now and in the future. Some people are very capable and are also surrounded by friends and family members who can help keep them in their home if their health fails. Others are less connected in the community and run the risk of becoming isolated and alone if their health becomes a factor. Unfortunately, these are the same people who often overvalue their familiar surroundings and remain at home much longer than it would be wise to do so.

In the latter case, when previously isolated people move, for example, into a retirement community where the social interaction is much more readily available they often blossom and become reinvigorated. Making a move should be about making your life better in some way. And that's where your focus should be.

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Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

Very nice artical, Rick. I own a Senior Move Management Company in Tucson, Arizona called Cupboard to Closet and we see this with so many of our clients. I am so happy to see that others across the country and world are making note of this issue and ways to help. Thanks for your article!

Posted by Jennifer Bergdoll | October 2, 2010 Report Violation

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