There are many living choices single seniors aged 70 and above can make when they decide to move out of their homes. The popular choice for these seniors is becoming continuing care retirement communities. Transitioning from homes they’ve owned for decades can be very stressful, not only for the resident but for their families and the senior living communities have to be prepared to welcome them and help them navigate their new surroundings as well as provide a high level of amenities. These residents have done a lot of living and they come to the community with high expectations.
Once the decision is made to move, the next, and possibly toughest, decision is deciding what to take. Pairing down sentimental items from generations past can present a real challenge when moving from a 3000 sq. ft. home to a one or two-bedroom apartment. Ultimately, decisions have to be made about things, precious things. What can be kept or what has to be let go. Not everyone has five children waiting to fight over Great Grandma’s antique table and chairs. The younger generation doesn’t always want the fine china that cannot go into the dishwasher and would prefer to eat out rather than take on all the pots, pans, linens and silverware that go with preparing a meal. Additionally, the stress of cleaning out a home where the resident has lived over many years collecting rooms filled with antiques can be a daunting task. If someone is designated to help the senior with the transition, be prepared to lovingly listen to the stories attached to their precious items as they make the decisions about what and what not to keep.
When it’s moving day, carefully plan for the movers to come early in the morning. Make plans to offload the bed first and set it up so that the resident can get a good night’s rest and leisurely put away all of their belongings. Set the expectation that not everything will be set-up and look like home in one day. Remind them that moving is a process and, if it is local, it may take several days to bring everything from their home. People who have lived with in their homes for decades have a tendency to change their minds and may find it hard to part with some of the items left behind. Try to plan the house sale after the resident has moved out. When things are moved from their original place it can often become upsetting.
The community the senior is moving into should be able to help with hanging curtains, wall art and furniture placement. Expect only to get about 2 hours of free labor when you move in for touch-ups, TV and phone set-ups and picture hanging. Expect that an ADA compliant shower may require a custom size shower curtain and you may have to rent a local storage unit if the senior has packed more than expected. When arranging furniture make sure to leave enough room for wheelchairs and walkers.
Security should not be an issue when moving into a community. Kiosks in some lobbies enable visitors to sign in for resident safety. Cameras monitor who comes and who leaves. Additionally, communities require vendors and personnel to be background checked. Doors are usually locked and a key fob is provided to open doors that allow wheelchair and walker access.
Lastly, after the move-in, hang out for a while and visit. It is very important they know you’re there. Allow your loved one’s independent spirit to thrive. If transportation is available at the community, encourage the senior to use it. If they do drive, have them make arrangements for their cars to be parked close to the building where they live. Transitioning from home to independent living can be one of great relief to both resident and family if handled in a proper way.