Posted: March 15, 2021
“Home is where the heart is” This is one of my favorite sayings that my mom and grandmother both had mounted in their kitchens. Home is where we raise our children, find our solace after a tough day, make our holiday memories, and secure our future. Home is everything to us.
When it comes to moving to senior living, older adults must “give up their homes” and downsize to apartment living. It is quite an emotional journey, often coming with much reluctance and grief.
In additional to the logistical details necessary to make a move, here are five thoughts to consider in order to ease the emotional burden:
While living in and enjoying your primary home, set up a schedule to downsize your belongings and memorabilia, well before an expected move. Start with a single drawer or closet shelf, so that the emotions can be segmented in smaller moments of time and effort. Set up rewards for yourself when you accomplish each little goal.
Reminiscing about the past is so important for older adults to celebrate their accomplishments and share their values and beliefs with younger family members. Asking children and grandchildren to join the downsizing process can be an enjoyable multi-generational activity and an opportunity to share important memories. Make it into a fun afternoon to see what treasures will be discovered or how many trash bags you can fill.
Many people find journaling a cathartic experience. Perhaps downsizing brings up negative emotions. Take time to journal about these emotions and what is most difficult in the current moment. Ask yourself what you need to know, gain, or release so that you can move forward with the downsizing process.
While any change will disrupt someone’s natural daily schedule and rhythm, begin to envision the positives about a smaller apartment with less responsibility, a lifestyle with more amenities and support, new friendships and relationships, and the opportunity for new learnings and experiences. Creating a positive vision will often help provide the momentum needed to complete the task at hand.
While many find enjoyment in their numerous sets of china, family photos mounted on the walls, and favorite pieces of jewelry, create a ritual to pass them down to family members or donate to families in need. Many people will often re-purpose cherished items to fit a smaller space, such as creating collages, quilts and collections from their most precious items. Perhaps writing a story about the items will help others understand their value and meaning.
Although grieving a move can be a difficult process, avoiding the grieving experience often creates unnecessary chaos and confusing if a crisis should happen without being prepared. “Home is where the heart is,” for sure, but there is also an age-old saying, “bloom where you are planted.” Older adults have been through so many changes in their lives and are much more resilient than expected. Moving to senior living is yet another stage of life, and one to be celebrated for a long life well lived.
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Kelly O’Connor is a Certified Senior Advisor, Certified Placement and Referral Specialist and Certified Dementia Practitioner based in Denver, Colorado. She is the founder of Senior Care Authority Denver Metro and a national speaker and expert on moves and transitions.