Should You Stay or Should You Go
There is pain in staying the same, and there’s pain in change. Pick the one that moves you forward. – Earnie Larsen
Just in case you are still “sitting on the fence” about whether to stay or move or have some qualms about leaving your current home, let me give you my perspective on this issue. Although I read and hear over and over again about the value of “aging in place” (remaining in the same home for as long as possible), I just don’t buy it. Just as we change throughout our lives, our lifestyle and housing needs also change. Remember the house (or houses) you grew up in with your parents and siblings? Remember your dorm room or the small apartment you shared with your friends when you were in college or your first home after getting married? Remember how excited you were when you were able to afford to buy your dream home for raising your family? Or the home you moved into after you retired and that felt so perfect for you at that point in your life?
Just as those living situations fit you and your lifestyle in the past, your current housing situation should be a good fit for where you are now in your life. Different spaces really do fit different phases. Moving later in life should take you to a simplified setting with less responsibility, more available support and assistance, and opportunities for interaction with others. Why? Because these factors will contribute to your overall functioning and well being as you continue to age and can help prolong your independence. Plus, your new simplified lifestyle will give you the freedom to do more of what you enjoy so you can live each day to the fullest – along with time to focus on successful aging so you can make the most of this phase of your life.
So why do so many people want to age in place? Probably the biggest factor is difficulty with letting go and moving on but denial, fear, depression, grief, basic resistance to change, and emotional attachment also may have roles in this. Yes, letting go of a long time home and moving can be stressful. It can even have negative effects on some older adults. But hanging on too long often leads to a life of loneliness and isolation – things that are even more detrimental to positive health and successful aging.
There is a story I love to use when giving talks on later life transitions because it illustrates so well the danger in hanging on when it is time to let go and move on. The story tells about a woman who was swimming across a lake with a rock in her hand. As this woman neared the center of the lake, she started to sink from the weight of the stone. “Drop the rock,” shouted some people who were watching from the shore. But the woman kept swimming, now disappearing for moments at a time under the water. “Drop the rock!” they yelled louder. The woman had reached the middle of the lake and was sinking as much as she was swimming. Once more the people urged, “Drop the rock!” And as the woman disappeared from sight for the last time, they heard her say, “I can’t. It’s mine.”
Housing that no longer fits, accumulated belongings, and outdated roles and responsibilities can become too heavy for us as we age and will start bringing us down if we don’t release them and let them go. So why not consider dropping your rocks and the things that are starting to weigh you down and look at the pros and cons of moving on to a more appropriate setting for this stage and phase of your life?
“Moving On” Later in Life
- If you are proactive in deciding to move, you can choose a housing option that better meets your current needs, and make plans for your future needs as well.
- You can remove yourself from the responsibility of house and yard maintenance.
- You get to decide when and where you move as well as determine what happens to your belongings as you “lighten the load” for the next phase of your life journey.
- You have a chance to make new friends who share your current interests or maybe reconnect with old friends; you may also feel revitalized living in a new setting with opportunities to meet people and have new experiences.
- You will need to leave your current home, but you can take the good memories and the key components that mean “home” with you.
- You save your family the responsibility and burden of making decisions about your living situation and your belongings later.
Proactively making a later life move can be one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself because it will much better enable you to retain control of your life going forward. In other words, growing and changing with your aging will help you keep step with your life. And by welcoming in continued growth and change, you are also opening the door to living and aging fully and successfully. This is why I am so convinced of the value in older adults “taking the bull by the horn” and letting go and moving on in their later years. My desire to help older adults retain control over their lives and continue living fully was the driving force behind creating a business to provide “hands on” help to older adults making this kind of transition. It’s also why I have provided education on this topic for the past decade. It’s just such an important issue for everyone who is part of our aging, changing world.
Don’t forget that actively choosing to make this move can also be a wonderful gift for your family. I can’t tell you just how very relieved I am that my parents made their own decisions about moving over ten years ago when they were in their late 70s and that they thought through how they would like to live out the remaining years of their lives. They gave my siblings and me a tremendous GIFT by relieving us of the responsibility and burden of making important but very tough decisions for them later.
Last but not least, if autonomy and freedom are important to you, moving to a smaller, more appropriate and supportive setting for this phase of life can help prolong your ability to function independently because you’ll be in a better position to adapt to the changes that lie ahead. I have seen this over and over again with my clients as well as my parents. From the beginning, I see people looking less stressed and more energized after their moves once the weight of this decision and their houses is off their shoulders. And I see those who made the proactive decision to move continuing to function well for years. Many also thrive in their new environments because they are enhancing their own successful aging by spending time on physical exercise they enjoy, taking advantage of new experiences and opportunities, and engaging in life and enjoying their new network of friends.
I think this is great! What do you think? Are you seeing now all the positive aspects of letting go and moving forward with this living transition?
Sue Ronnenkamp is a nationally recognized expert in the area of later life living transitions. Sue has shifted her work away from the “how to” 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.