The Often Overlooked Reality of Moving for the Elderly

By Kris Pearson-Realtor RSA

Moving for many of us is a choice and although it can be a stressful time, we are fulfilling our dream, to sell our existing home and purchase a new home. We are making a deliberate choice to change our living arrangement and pursue the next chapter in our lives.

For the elderly, selling their home and moving to a senior living community is nothing short of a grieving process, over which they feel very little control. Moving to a senior community represents for most elderly people a loss of control, loss of self, loss of independence and of possessions. It is not a decision they make willingly, but rather a forced and often sudden decision to due to health reasons. As a result there is often resistance to selling their home and a reluctance to accept what the move represents for them.

Decisions are often made by family members, which senior community they will move to, which possessions they will take, when they will move and the decision to sell their home. The feeling of a loss of control over self and decisions is profound. Facing the fact they can no longer live independently and have little control over their life, many times creates a reluctance and aversion to moving. Saying “no” to moving, is often the only control they have left.

The possessions they take with them to a much smaller living space are minimal. The forfeiture of personal items, many of which represent memories and hard work in acquiring, adds to the sense of loss. Decisions are made about the disposal of items by family members, in an effort to be more efficient due to the often urgent timeline of the move. Valued possessions are sold for minimal money, taken to Goodwill and rarely does the family want any possessions, as they are different than what our society values today. The crystal bowl which took weeks of hard work to purchase has little value in today’s society, yet is filled with memories of family gatherings for the elderly person.

There is also a sense of loss in moving away from a neighborhood where people and things are familiar, to be thrust into a community of strangers. The well intended and often needed intrusion of the assisted living staff, set times to eat and strangers helping with bathing and other personal care items creates a sense of loss of self. The cost of senior living of $3000-$6000 a month for an assisted living apartment compared to a paid off mortgage adds to the anxiety. The elderly person may no longer control their finances and the concern about running out of money is ever present. The sale of their home is often critical to provide funding for their life at a senior community.

It is important to understand that moving for the elderly is not a choice. Many hope someday they can return to their beloved home. The sale of their home requires an understanding of how difficult this transition is for them and for the family, especially if the home is where the children grew up.  As new journeys in life often are, the transition can be difficult and wrought with emotion. It is imperative those involved understand and recognize this often overlooked reality for the elderly who are making this transition.

Senior Housing Guide is a Division of Housing Sense