Moving can be stressful and emotionally difficult for anyone. For older adults, relocating to a new home can be particularly hard. Nevertheless, more than three million people aged 65 and over move to a new home yearly. Many aren’t just moving down the street: each year, about 600,000 older adults move to a new state; about 42% move to a different state in the same part of the country, while 58% move to a state in another region.
It can be very stressful for older adults to move out of the home they may have lived in for decades. But there are ways to make the transition easier. If you’re an older adult or caretaker of a senior who is moving, this post may be helpful.
Why Do Older Adults Move?
Seniors have different reasons for moving. Some want to move to a warmer climate to spend their golden years, some want to be closer to their children or friends, some are downsizing to a more manageable house, and some are moving to a retirement community.
Sometimes the person realizes the house is too big for them. There may be rooms they haven’t used in years. There may be maintenance tasks and yard work they no longer can or want to perform. Maybe they’ve just experienced a loss and want a change of scenery. And often, they want to live closer to children or other loved ones.
Why Is Moving Stressful for Older Adults?
Medical researchers recognize relocation stress syndrome (RSS) as a real phenomenon associated with the unique challenges of moving later in life. Even when the person realizes the move makes logical sense and is excited about their new home, there can be tremendous anxiety.
We all know as we age, we tend to become more set in our ways. Familiar surroundings, objects, and routines become a reassuring fabric of our lives. Relocation takes us out of that and puts us in an unfamiliar environment. The tension and worries associated with moving are magnified as we age.
Being forced to say goodbye forever to a pleasant, familiar place — a home that they know thoroughly and holds decades of happy memories — can be deeply distressing to older adults. The emotional effects of moving can be deep and long-lasting.
Symptoms of RSS
People experiencing RSS can have a range of symptoms, from slight to severe. They may feel sad, angry, irritable, depressed, or anxious. They may have difficulty sleeping, lose their appetite, and lose weight. In extreme cases, they may become disoriented, combative and be at risk for hospitalization and premature death.
How Can Moving Be Less Stressful for Seniors?
There are ways caretakers and loved ones can make moving less wrenching for seniors. Accept there will likely be some grief and negative emotions associated with the move. But there are things that can help.
Empower the Person
Fully involve the older adult in the move. When an adult child is busy with their own life, it can be easy to make decisions without consulting their loved one.
Moving can be less stressful when the older adult is involved in all decisions. This includes where and when to move, what to bring with them, and even choosing a realtor to sell their home. Being involved reassures them they are still in control of their own lives.
Also, respect the person’s home and belongings. Have them participate in the decluttering process. What may appear to be useless trash may have emotional meaning to the person. When getting rid of items, donate as much as possible. This shows the person their possessions have value and are given to others who can use them.
If there’s not enough space in their new home for everything to bring along, work with the person to find a storage facility, or a moving company like, All Around Moving Services Company, Inc.. Having familiar objects, like their favorite easy chair, in their new location can make them feel more at home after the move.
Take It Slowly and Accentuate the Positive
Although you and the older adult may have moved in the distant past and gotten everything done in a week or so, things are different now. Once you’ve agreed to move, start the planning process early and begin working together to clear out the current home one room at a time, beginning with rooms that aren’t being used.
Also, emphasize the positive aspects of the move, such as pleasant weather in their new location and the recreation activities and social interactions available to them in their new home.
Speaking of social interactions, these are essential to good mental health and cognitive functioning for older adults. When people move, they lose their long-time local friends and acquaintances. It’s crucial to find plentiful social activities in the new area.
We hope you found this post, Moving With Seniors: How Stressful is It? useful. Be sure to check out our post, Tips for Seniors Living Independently for more great information.
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