I am always trying to feel the pulse of my clients who are boomers and their parents. I just received the results from a survey I sent out to folks from ages 78-85. They are all homeowners and most considering a move to a senior apartment or community. So often we think we know what others are feeling but may misread emotions which are kept quiet. We are talking about a generation of seniors who are fiercely private and, in many cases, selfless. Most in this age group belong in or just behind the World War II generation. This generation would rather keep quiet about their feelings and focus on those in the family behind.
The following are questions pertain more to core feelings and emotions. It is about the why behind the actions or inaction. I feel this is valuable for you, the reader who are the senior considering a move or you the child wanting the best for your parent’s quality of life.
1) Question: What would you consider the major reason that would hold you back from a move that you feel would be beneficial?
Answer: The task of downsizing is too overwhelming! The second answer was “I can afford it, but I don’t want to spend the money!”.
2) Question: What would have to change from your current circumstances to make you ready to consider a move from your long-time home?
Answer: An overwhelming 70% said a health setback. Second answer; “I can’t keep up my home any longer
3) Question: Of those you know that have moved to a senior community, are they happy or unhappy with their decision?
Answer: The overwhelming majority said they were happy they made the move, and only 5% unhappy with their decision to move to a senior community or apartment.
4) Question: How far from your home would consider in your next move?
Answer: Almost half said within 2-5 miles from my current home. 28% said “distance is no problem”.
5) Question: In a senior community or apartment, what services or amenities are most important to you?
Answer: Two answers were evenly split at around 35% were; social activities and parking. Way behind at under 10% were medical services, meals and laundry services.
6) Question: Does the age of the building matter in your decision?
Answer: 52% said they would prefer a newer building and 47% stated that the age of the building does not matter
7) Question: When do you anticipate a move?
Answer: Almost 80% said “more than a year”
8) Question: Do you consider your self very independent?
Answer: Almost 50% stated they are independent but slowing down. Many stated they were dealing with health setbacks.
This feedback is critical to all of you either considering a move or deciding to stay in your home. If you are the family helping mom or dad, the answers provided provide insights as to motivations and to perceptions. What can we gain from the feedback provided by this survey?
Downsizing is an issue that must be dealt with not only by the senior moving but by the family helping mom or dad. Thankfully there are services ready to help and make this process of shedding our treasures simple, organized and done in a relatively short period of time. We will avoid shedding our things which hold memories. It is difficult knowing where to begin this process. But avoiding it can hold us back from the inevitable. Get help! Don’t do this on your own if possible. I’ve seen families take 3-5 years on their own when a professional company can achieve downsizing in less than a week.
Most respondents stated that a health setback would make them consider a move. We don’t want to leave the home we love. But many are tempting fate by waiting for that unforeseen health event to happen before considering a move. The worst moves I see are those stemming from crisis management. When is crisis, the senior may be in rehab and may not go back home. Then the move is resting on the laps of family. All decisions are made quickly because the home must be sold to pay for future care. This scenario should be avoided at all costs if possible. I always suggest looking a few years ahead and be realistic about age and health when making the decision to put off a move, leaving it to fate.
In closing, one answer in the survey really stands out for me. When asked about those they know that have made the move, the majority said, “they were happy they made the move”. That means that in our minds we know a move could be beneficial to our quality of life, but fear of the unknown supersedes our logical assessment of our current living situations. Change is tough and all of us avoid it whenever possible. I hope my survey will shed some light on the question, “should I stay, or should I move”. It is a decision that can mean the difference of a healthy lifestyle or waiting for crisis management. Put quality of life at the top of your decision-making process. Our fears can overshadow our best intentions causing procrastination and confusion. I hope the feedback from other older adults can help you or your family begin the process of making healthy decisions for you or those you love.
*My next article will discuss results of my survey of boomers who are in the process of helping their parents move from their long-time home. I focused on their hopes, feelings, fears and difficult decisions that they face.