By Julie Anderson
When is the best time to discuss with an aging parent the idea of making the move to an apartment or assisted living? It's a difficut subject to bring up.
And, make no mistake; the move will not come without enormous emotional upheaval. Senior lifestyle trends expert Lori La Bey says stress wise moving mom and dad is right up there with death, marriage and kids. "Seniors always worry where all their stuff is going to go," she says. And children and parents view the process very differently.
There are a number of options for senior housing: townhomes, condominiums, cooperatives and apartments are available for seniors who can take of themselves. Assisted living and nursing homes are options if there are health concerns.
The first step in the process is research and a lot of it. Where would your parents consider living? Would they like to live near you? Do they need to be near a bus line or close to a particular medical facility? What about their long time activities? Do they want to stay on their bowling team or be close to the church they've attended their entire lives? These are important considerations and children may feel they are doing their parents a big favor if they take on some of that research themselves but, be upfront with your parents
otherwise, La Bey cautions parents may feel threatened, believing their children have a hidden agenda.
Senior housing has a lot to offer. No more working in the yard or climbing up a latter to clean the gutters every fall. And, depending on what type of housing you choose, there could be social activities, and new friends to be made.
When my mother-in-law Loretta and I checked out some senior cooperatives recently she was amazed by what was available. Her eyes lit up when she saw the huge closets, the in-unit washer and dryer and the updated kitchen. She also saw a card table in the activity room and expressed how nice it would be to have people available for her favorite games.
But she says all her memories are in the house where she raised my husband and his brother. And she has great neighbors and nearby friends who help her out when she needs it. Amazingly, at 89-years-old she does not need help very often.
And she like others her age can't even imagine what it's going to be like to pack up and leave a house in which they know every nook and cranny. The good dishes have a special cupboard; the golf clubs have their own spot in the basement. La Bey says everything in the new place will be different and likely smaller. So how in the world do you get ready to move from a big house to a much smaller unit? She suggests a stoplight approach in dealing with all 'the stuff.'
Start in the least used rooms of the house and make separate piles. The green pile is stuff that is definitely going to the new home. The red pile is the stuff that is definitely not. Sort that into piles that will be thrown away, donated or given to the kids. Yellow is the toughest pile. It might be boxes of old pictures or long forgotten treasures from days gone by. La Bey says do not let that stuff linger in your hands or those of your parents. It might sidetrack the whole packing process for half a day. Just put the items in the yellow pile and move to the next room. La Bey also suggests avoiding the term downsizing. She says it conjures up negative feelings. She uses the term 'amenisizing' instead. Focus on all of the great amenities the new place has waiting and make sure you find the right size home to match your needs. La Bey says it's all about the right size with the right amenities.
Believe me, after touring a number of senior housing complexes, there are wonderful units available. Just remember. It's all about the research and a little reassurance that everyone involved supports the decisions being made.