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Glossary
Older adults who relocate usually do so as a result of life opportunities (such as retirement), life changes (such as widowhood), and health changes. Most older adults prefer to "age in place" or stay in their current home and neighborhood. Seniors usually move to locations that are perceived as highly desirable and have other older adults in close proximity. Not all such moves are to warmer climates, as some older adults relocate to retirement communities or choose to remain in the same community.

Factors that influence the decisions of older adults to move include the following:

  • Distance from family and friends.
  • Continuity of lifestyle, culture, and traditions.
  • Access to amenities such as recreation, health, and leisure activities.
  • Familiarity with the region or environment.

Types of Moves

There are usually three types of moves that occur for older adults. Each is often affected by the adult's health and mobility as well as other factors.

The first move tends to occur primarily among married older people in their sixties who are healthy and have adequate retirement incomes. Retirement frees adults from having to live near places of employment. The motivation for the move may be to leave the negative features of the former residence, as well as to be close to the attractive features of the new residence, such as better climate, facilities, and services. Friendships with adults who have already moved may be another motivation. Ties with family are often maintained at a distance through periodic visits and telephone/letter contacts.

The second move is usually at a time when adults have a chronic disability that creates difficulty in carrying out everyday household tasks, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of finances. The move is usually closer to family for support.

The third move occurs as a result of a severe illness or disability that requires more care than can be provided in the home by family members, homemaker service, nursing care service, or adult day care. This move is usually to an assisted living facility.

Each of these moves requires adjustments.

Adjusting to Relocation

Each relocation requires several adjustments. Questions must be answered concerning several life changes:

  • Should I relocate?
  • Where will I relocate?
  • Who will take care of my business and legal affairs?
  • Will I overcome my regrets about leaving?

Adapting to a new environment requires the adult to establish new friendships, new routines, and new physical environment. The adult must relate this new environment to their total life experience and their purpose for life. Many positive reactions occur due to the move, however, it is the negative responses that may be a surprise. Some of these emotional reactions may include:

  • Disorientation.
  • Idealization of the new or lost environment.
  • Anger or depression.
  • Confusion, illness, or grief.

The degree of adjustment to a new home may depend on the older adult's experiences in planning for the move, their perception of the new environment, and how comfortable they feel in the new environment.

Formal and Informal Community Services

Community services for older adults who move range from formal to informal depending upon their physical and mental functioning and ability. The community support services for the independent older adult include: home-delivered meals; home maintenance; homemaking services; outpatient clinics; support groups; mental health counseling; senior centers; recreational services; legal services; volunteer opportunities; employment services.

Community-based services for the adult who requires more care giving due to increasing dependence include: homemaker services; visiting nurse; transportation; friendly visitor support service; legal services; adult day care; telephone hotlines or contact services; respite care; retirement communities with services/life care; protective services; assisted living; group home, or congregate living; acute care, chronic care, rehabilitation facility; intermediate nursing care and skilled nursing care.

Coping With the Change of Relocating

Moving has many complex implications and effects upon the older adult. Most older adults have lived in their home for more than twenty years. Relocating presents challenges to establish new connections to community, friends, and family. An awareness of the community services available can help with this adjustment process. Seniors adapt more easily to environments that fit their personal range of mastery and control over their surroundings. The following questions may be helpful for seniors in adjusting to relocating:

  • Is there a sense of security and safety?
  • Is there a sense of control, choice, privacy, and autonomy for the resident?
  • Is there accessibility, adaptability, and orientation to the new environment?
  • Do the aesthetics contribute to a pleasant, personalized atmosphere providing for a sense of home and familiarity?

Moving into a new residence has a special meaning for each individual. For older adults, the perception of "home" usually includes good neighbors, friends, and memories. Security, comfort, and integrity of the individual are important to maintain as the older adult considers relocation.

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