You may have recently explored retirement living and decided that the lifestyle would positively impact your life and help you maintain your independence. You may have also decided that now is the right time in your life to make a move—yet, you haven’t taken steps to begin the move-in process. Why?
When it comes to big life changes, sometimes even when we’re clear about what to do and when to do it, there can still be things that block us from moving forward. Those blocks may be practical, or perhaps even emotional. Let’s explore this further.
Common “blocks” to making the move to a retirement residence:
Leaving the familiar
One of the most common blocks to making the move to a retirement community is the sadness that can come with leaving a family home that provides a sense of familiarity and security that is so important to us. Consider what might make it especially hard for you to leave your current home: Is this the home you raised your children in and where you’ve made countless memories? Or is this the last home you and your spouse lived in before he or she passed, and moving from here feels like losing them all over again?
It is normal to feel sadness over a significant change, and yet that sadness doesn’t mean that the change is wrong. Think back in your life to other major transitions you have experienced and how you felt during those times. Likely you went through a period of grieving over what you were leaving behind before you embraced the new chapter. It’s important to allow yourself to feel the sadness. It won’t last forever, but it will move through more quickly if we allow ourselves to feel it, rather than trying to push it down.
This can be made more difficult by adult children who want you to focus on all of the benefits of moving to your new residence, rather than what you are leaving behind. You may have to remind them that grieving is a normal part of change and that we need the chance to express it. You may also find that a good friend has an easier time listening to what you are going through. If grief interferes with your ability to function in your life or lasts a very long time, you may even need the help of a professional in moving through it. But, more likely you will adapt and move forward and find the joy and the good in the next chapter of your life.
Another common block to moving is managing the work associated with downsizing. This can feel overwhelming! How can we possibly sort through all of our memories and precious possessions and decide which ones to keep and which ones to let go?
If it feels overwhelming to you to manage the downsizing alone, you may find this is something you want to do with the help or support of someone else. You may ask your adult children to help you, or you may hire a professional downsizing organization. As hard as it may be to sort through things, many people also report how free they feel after doing it. Some people find it easier to let go of things if they take photos of what they are not keeping. Other people enjoy giving some of their possessions to close family members and friends.
Overcoming our blocks
Whether it is an emotional block or a practical block that is keeping you from implementing a change you know is best, it’s important to find a way through it. These blocks don’t go away if ignored, and if we let them keep us from moving forward, they often mean that we miss out on or delay having the independence and quality of life we deserve.
Frequently, I hear clients of mine who have chosen to move into a retirement residence say, “I wish I’d done this sooner!” My own father was one of those people who delayed the happiness of his new chapter. He and my mom hesitated for a long time before moving into a retirement residence, as they had blocks that kept them from taking action. Finally—because Dad thought it was the best thing for my mother—they moved. Six months later, my father told me that he was very sorry they hadn’t moved sooner. He liked the freedom of not having to manage his own place, he enjoyed the food and he found the people very friendly and supportive. This became even more important after my mom passed. My introverted father still had people to talk with and found that people were very kind and supportive as he was grieving. He thoroughly enjoyed this next chapter of his life and only wished he pushed through his blocks to do it sooner.
If you believe retirement living will benefit your life, I hope you can move through the blocks that are keeping you from having the independence and adventure you deserve!
Dr. Amy is a certified senior advisor, Vice President of the International Federation on Aging, and Co-Founder of the Essential Conversations Project. As a gerontological social worker, she has over thirty years of experience working with older adults and their families.