One of the many issues that comes with aging is deciding when to move out of the family home.
Whether you plan to move across town, or into town from a rural setting, or to a completely different place on the map, relocation for older people is associated with decline and loss.
A bit of research turned up several studies on the ramifications of moving in old age. “The Dimensionality of ‘Place Attachment’ for Older People in Rural Areas of Southwest England and Wales” wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I was intrigued by “Connecting Older Adults to iPad Technology” but it took me way off topic. I avoided “Spatial Modification with Physical and Social Implications in Older Adulthood.” I did find one telling title: “Move or Suffer”.
A glance at these studies added credence to my own thinking. So, why do older people decide to move?
1) The obvious reason is to be close to health services because of illness or incapacity. My in-laws moved to the coast for pertinent medical services. It was not a happy time for them. They left neighbours, friends, and a familiar environment for a place that had no similarity to their life of 30 years in a small town.
2) To be near children and grandchildren. Maybe not such a good idea. Children have busy lives. “I wouldn’t want to become an item on their calendar,” said a friend who has weighed the options. And you could easily be relegated to the position of chief babysitter. Depending on your state of health and amount of energy, it could put you over the moon or under the table.
Close but not too close is the best scenario. Studies show that most people want to live near family but not with family. The lucky people are those who already have family nearby, or within a short-flight distance; e.g., Calgary to Comox is doable. Not so easy is a drive to Cranbrook or Castlegar to catch a plane to Calgary to fly on to somewhere else.
3) To leave behind the ongoing maintenance of a large property. Maybe you have been used to heating with wood, maybe always maintained a garden. You enjoyed these activities, but unloading that truck of firewood or manure is not much fun anymore. Your back hurts and you get fatigued in less time than you used to. Tasks are spread over days instead of hours.
You can always stop heating with wood or buy it from those young(er), agile people who sell it. You can minimize the garden, but there’s still the house to maintain. I always think the smart people are the ones who found a not-too-large private property not too far from services.
4) Because a spouse or partner has passed away. Some people can adjust to living alone, might even come to like it. But if you have shared space with another person for 40 or 50 years, adjustment to being single is going to be a struggle.
Other reasons to move include economics, the weather, and the fact that self-driving cars are not yet on the market. The last point came from a savvy person who is actually looking forward to this new technology. Memo to self: move before driving becomes unfeasible.
The operative element is “deciding” to move, not waiting for someone else to make the decision. Experts say perspective is vital—do not look at moving as “giving up”. They recommend becoming familiar with the new environment before moving, and finding positive aspects about it.
Friends in Vancouver made a spontaneous decision to sell their home of 40 years. The move to a smaller community has turned out well. They are closer to family and away from the trials of a bustling city.
Others have made successful moves and are thriving as a result, although not without torment en route. The hassles of moving will always be a factor—whittling down your stuff; giving up living space; perhaps surrendering privacy; perhaps switching from an English garden to a flowerbox on a condo patio.
The bottom line seems to be: decide to move before you need to. That is easy to say.