How to Prepare for a Later Life Move
PLAN AHEAD! It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
Are you at a point in your life where you’re starting to think about making a later life move from your long time home? If you are, congratulations! You’re ahead of the pack already since very few in our society are planning for their later life transitions.
Proactively making a later life move indicates that you understand that this phase of your life is different from those you have already experienced, and that you need to plan for this accordingly. This move is a major transition marker signifying the crossing of a threshold into the next phase of your life. Prepare for this as you prepared for other major life changes – like leaving your parents’ home as a young adult, marrying and having a family, or retiring from your job. Plan for a gradual adjustment and transition into a future time when you may need more direct support and assistance.
There are several things you can do to start planning and preparing for your later life living transition. The further ahead you start preparing, the better off you will be personally, and the more successful your move will be.
Check out the housing options in your area.
There are currently many good options for older adults to choose from, thanks to the senior housing industry’s efforts to increase the number and variety of senior residential communities. You might also consider other options as well, such as moving to an apartment or condo. The focus for your housing selection should be a place that is smaller and more manageable, with less responsibility for maintenance. You should also consider options that afford you some available support and assistance, as well as opportunities for interaction with others. Call a variety of the housing options and senior communities in your area, request a tour, meet the staff, ask questions, meet some of the residents and ask them questions. Do as much as you need to in order to get a clear picture of your available choices.
Start preparing psychologically for your move.
Experts believe that a move brings emotional stress equivalent to that of retiring, starting a new job, or getting a divorce. Some think that moving later in life is even more stressful and rank this change second only to losing a spouse. I agree that a later life move requires special care and preparation – especially if you haven’t moved in a long time. It’s also true that moving is NOT something to be taken lightly, but I don’t believe that it has to be the major trauma many make it out to be. Proper preparation, along with allowing enough time to get through this experience, can help immensely with this transition.
Start sorting through your belongings.
This is the BIGGEST JOB you will face with a later life move so you can never start too early. There are several key points to keep in mind with this part of your transition. First, try to think of this as a natural process of completing and releasing, like leaves falling from the trees in autumn. Second, allow plenty of flexibility and time for this step. Sorting through your belongings is like a treasure hunt. Take time to savor the memories and to mourn your losses. Third, do NOT start with the idea of how much you can take with you to your new home. Rather, think about which of your belongings are really important to you and focus on creating your new space around these key items. Simplicity – not clutter – should be the essential ingredient with a later life move.
Consider the idea of honoring and valuing the life cycle.
One of the special challenges and opportunities of the later stages of life is learning the value and importance of interdependence and dependence – wanting and needing support – as we age. If a person lives through the entire life cycle (as many are doing today by living into their 80s, 90s, or 100 or greater), most will once again need some form of active support and assistance to function each day as we did in the early stage of life. Start thinking of this as a good thing. Having our needs change as we age is as natural as the cycles and seasons of the year. And remember that the greatest part is that we can still give of ourselves whether we are providing help, or receiving help from others.
As Groucho Marx once said, “Growing older is something you get to do if you’re lucky.” Value this season in your life and allow yourself the possibility of getting excited about this time of change because of the opportunity the new holds for you. This might be the best move of your life!
Sue Ronnenkamp is a nationally recognized expert in the area of later life living transitions. After 10 years of refining the “how to” of right-sizing/downsizing, Sue has shifted her focus to WHY continuing to move forward in all areas of our lives is key to vital and successful aging. Her new business is called Age-Full Living with its primary focus on embracing changing with our aging, living later life to the fullest, and reaping the gifts and blessings of growing older. For more information, visit Sue’s website at www.AgeFullLiving.com.