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Moving is Emotional, Especially for Seniors

Will Andrews

Today has been a tough one, emotionally, for Ann, age 83. The earlier downsizing decisions involving baskets and plates have given way to a far more intense one – what to do with her grandmother’s cedar chest. Ann’s 57 year-old daughter, Wendy, patiently helps her navigate these murky emotional waters with as much care as possible, but it’s still Ann’s decision to make. Does she choose this piece of furniture or her favorite chair as one of the few select items for the move to her new home in the assisted living community?

Ann is not alone. Millions of seniors like her are facing the difficult task of moving into adult retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing homes every year. According to U.S. Census Bureau data released on December 12, 2012, the country’s senior population, age 55+, will increase from 88.51 million in 2015 to 115.91 million by 2035, the latter figure representing 31.35 percent of the total U.S. projected population.

Successfully managing the moving of a senior takes patience and planning. Many of the “golden rules of moving” are necessary components for minimizing stress and maximizing productivity: sorting, organizing, disposing of unwanted items and thorough planning of the physical moving process. In moving seniors, many of these tasks can be challenging. Following are a few special considerations:

Be kind. When helping to sort and pack their things, keep in mind that their eyesight and an inability to do everything they used to do can result in poor housekeeping habits. Offer to clean as you pack and try not to criticize.

Plan the move. Allow enough time so no one feels rushed. Sorting through years of stuff is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. Give them time to absorb the change.

Talk and start with small tasks. Take a day to talk about the move and everyone’s expectations. Give seniors small tasks such as going through a desk drawer or a box from the attic. Ask them to spend only 15 to 20 minutes a day on one task. Let them decide what they’d like to do. Taking small steps will help your loved ones get used to the idea of moving.

Consider the sentimental value. Considering the emotional attachment a senior adult may have to their home, choose a room with less sentimental value to begin the sorting and organizing process, such as the garage or laundry room. This approach can serve to ease some of the senior’s moving stress as they begin their transition.

Hire outside help. Sometimes it’s easier for seniors to work with an outside party rather than family members. There are many companies who specialize in moving seniors, offering comfort to senior and their family.

“People often underestimate the emotional expense incurred while moving senior family members or friends,” says Scott McClure, Regional Director, New Horizons Senior Move Management. “Freeing up families to address life-sizing issues such as heirloom distribution and home sales, instead of packing boxes, clearing closets, estate sale planning, and coordinating furniture moves, can make a big difference during delicate housing transitions.”

Moving, especially later in life, can cause significant emotional and physical stress on the mind and body. Thorough planning and patience by family and friends can create a successful prescription for a senior move.

For more information on moving seniors, see 10 Tips to Help Older Adults Move By Diane Schmidt for About.com (http://moving.about.com/od/movingwithchildre1/a/senior_tips.htm). For assistance with moving, contact New Horizons Senior Move Management at 888.435.3156.

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