Back to the Future

By Jane Meyers-Bowen

When your adult children move back home- often it is not necessarily met with overwhelming excitement by either party. Personal boundaries, privacy requirements, financial issues, and lifestyle preferences can all be sources of friction. 

However, when your parent, who lives across the country, moves back to the neighborhood to be close to family- it can prove to be one of the most joyful experiences for you, your family and your parents if well planned out. 

Let’s Get This Straight

The same sources of friction present when adult children move in with their parents can be issues between an adult child and one’s parents if the shoe is on the other foot.  But if addressed early with a frank discussion, you can avoid tarnishing a very wonderful journey (that may not last very long).

Where to From Here?

One of the mistakes that seniors make is they move in with their children. Living with adult children is often described by seniors as lonely.  Others have felt absorbed into their family’s life and not really living their own life. It can make sense if financial conditions require such a move. But if the resources are available, moving into place where seniors are with others of their own era where they get to enjoy the history, music, values, and entertainment that they relate to.  Retirement Communities have flourished as they are attuned to the needs of seniors who are still very much engaged in life and are looking for a more vibrant lifestyle and yet a safer one. Our residents tell us their health indexes exactly improve even within a short time of moving into.

First Things First

One of the mistakes that adult children make is to expect their aging parents can manage all the decision making, organization and management of a move- if it is from across the street or across the country.   In fact, the best way to execute a move may be very different than one would think.  Although counter intuitive, moving your parents first into where they are going to be living out the next chapter in their lives, then dispose of property and extra belongings through gifting, selling or donating.  This strategy reduces the wear and tear on them and the family as well.

Mission Possible

So once the decision has been made to move by family and mom and dad, it is time to do some “recon.”  One of our recent new resident’s son and daughter in law went into motion at this point. They went out on a search with a list of retirement community options -close to their own home- that met their mother’s requirements. First they came into our community  through the front door. They loved what they heard and what they saw. But then… they went undercover to make sure that what we said we were all about was for real. They kept saying this is such a happy place! Happy Residents!  Happy Staff!  Once they were convinced they had made the right decision they booked a flight for mom from southern California and a U-Haul and the plan was in moving plan was in motion.

A lot of Moving Parts

The biggest job of moving (other than moving the grand piano) is the sorting part…what am I taking with me, giving away, selling and donating? If you are looking at a 40-60 year accumulation of stuff this can absolutely overwhelming- too much for one senior to do even two seniors.  

Sometimes families discard old furniture thinking that it is cheaper or better to buy new things forgetting that familiar things can provide a sense of comfort in new surroundings.

A floor plan of the new apartment and a measuring tape can save a lot of time and frustration. Many backs and tempers suffer from trying to fit 3000 square feet of stuff into a 900 square ft apartment.  Extra or over sized furniture or furnishings can prove to be a fall risk.

No Looking Back

Many seniors that have been living alone and somewhat isolated approach the idea of moving into a community with a lot of anxiety.  It may have been years since your senior has lived with a spouse or in a community living situation- be it college or the military. They may have lost some of their social confidence which causes them to wonder if they will be accepted, if their clothes are presentable, and if they will find new friendships.  Family support can be valuable the first couple of weeks if that is spending a few nights with them, sharing some meal times and activities, and just being in the common areas to mingle and visit while they gently move into the fold.  On the other hand, it is important to remember that too much sheltering can send the wrong message and even interfere with their getting to know new people.

Seeing your parents launch a new start, develop a life and a community can be so fulfilling. The best gift a senior can give their family is a happy and fulfilled life.