5 tips to ease your parent’s move to a retirement community

Your parent has come to a decision: they are ready to make the move to a seniors’ residence and lead the worry-free lifestyle they deserve in their retirement years. There’s a lot for them to look forward too—including delicious, well-balanced meals, leisure and entertainment experiences, and a host of other convenient services—however, there’s also some work involved leading up to the big move.

To help your parent stay positive and looking forward to the next chapter of their retirement, here are some tips on how you can make their move as streamlined and stress-free as possible.

Devote time and support to the downsizing process
For many seniors, one of the most time-consuming tasks associated with moving is the prospect of having to organize and downsize an entire lifetime of possessions. It can be overwhelming at any age. 

Gerontological social worker Dr. Amy D’Aprix, vice-president of the International Federation on Aging and adviser to Chartwell Retirement Residences, says, “As hard as it may be to sort through things, many people also report how free they feel after doing it.”

You may wish to take the lead, and depending on your parent’s wishes and personality, involve them in a process that is respectful and inclusive. Dr. Amy notes that some people find it easier to let things go if they take photos of items they aren’t keeping, or if they give treasured possessions to other family or friends.

Consider hiring professional organizers or move managers
If budget permits, think about hiring a professional organizer or moving manager to assist you and your parent with the move. For example, the National Association of Senior Move Managers* has member companies that specialize in moving and organization services for seniors. 

Another way to make the process easier for both you and your parent is to ask for help from siblings and other family members, splitting up tasks among you. The Family Caregiver Alliance, a not-for-profit organization that supports family caregivers, has a number of useful checklists to help cover every detail of a move.*

Help set up their new suite
For some older adults, they may find it easier to have all their possessions moved and set up for them in their new suite before their arrival, while others may want to be an active part of the set-up process, involved in the placement of furniture, artwork and personal items. Find the option that best suits your parent, and  remember that this is a monumental day for them, so respect and patience should remain at the forefront of every interaction for the most pleasant, stress-free experience.

Help them get acquainted with their new home
Once your parent is moved in, they may feel unsure of what comes next. Consider walking around the residence with them to help them understand where everything is, and ask staff questions about anything you’re both unsure about. For example, what time should your parent come down for their meals? Where do they collect their mail? Where is the list of daily leisure experiences posted? This walkabout may also be a great opportunity to meet new residents and staff and help initiate introductions that may lead to new friendships for your parent. 

For older adults feeling particularly unsure about their first day at their new home, you may even consider joining your parent for their first meal or staying overnight to help them settle in and feel comfortable. When you leave, let them know when you or a family member will be visiting next to provide assistance with anything else they may need to feel at home.

Be a listening ear—the emotional transition may just be starting
The moving process may be over, but the emotional journey for your parent may just be starting. A move for just about anybody can involve grieving for their previous home, says Dr. Amy, and can take time to resolve.

“For you, helping your parent make the plan to move may resolve the fear or concern you have had about their living situation,” Dr. Amy explains. ”But for your parent, the plan to move may begin their emotional process of grieving.”

In the end, Dr. Amy notes that “empathy usually wins,” explaining that often what a parent needs during a life transition like a move to retirement living is someone to provide empathy and understanding—a listening ear and a reassuring voice that validates difficult feelings.

Are you helping a parent to move into their new retirement residence? Visit our website for more resources that can help their transition go smoothly. 

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:

National Association of Senior Move Managers. online: https://www.nasmm.org/about/index.cfm

Family Caregivers Alliance Downsizing Checklist. online: https://www.caregiver.org/downsizing-home-checklist-caregivers