Is it time to move? Things to think about

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Lisa M. Petsche

As people age, and especially if they have chronic health conditions, at some point they’re likely to find that their current home no longer suits their lifestyle or their needs.

This article summarizes many of the reasons people have for moving, mentions some of the most common options, and offers tips for planning ahead.

Reasons to consider moving

Freedom — To reduce responsibilities associated with home ownership, particularly property maintenance, to allow more time for recreation and leisure activities, such as engaging in a hobby, spending time with family, volunteering or traveling.

IndependenceTo offload as many responsibilities of daily living as possible, in order to continue to live independently in spite of decreased physical functioning. People in this situation may wish to eliminate not only property maintenance tasks but also housecleaning, laundering and meal preparation.

Climate — Desire for a moderate climate (not too hot and not too cold), for health and safety reasons or for comfort and convenience — for example, to be able to engage in favorite outdoor activities year-round.

Home design — To increase the accessibility of one’s home, specifically, to make it easier and safer to enter and exit, access all areas and use rooms for their intended purpose. A one-floor, open concept plan is typically desired. Some people (those who use a wheelchair, for example) may need a setting designed for the physically disabled.

Finances — To reduce expenses associated with shelter, including mortgage or rent, property taxes, utilities and maintenance. Another reason some people move is that the cost of home adaptations to improve safety and accessibility is beyond their means or is not a wise investment from a real estate perspective.

Socialization — To increase opportunities for social contact. Specifically, the goal might be moving closer to family members, especially children and grandchildren, or relocating to a community of peers.

Security — To reduce the risk of victimization. For example, those who are anxious about answering the door, leaving their home unattended or coming home to an empty house may experience increased peace of mind living in a gated community with security patrol or an apartment building with a security desk and locked mailboxes.

Community access — To improve access to shopping and other businesses, medical resources, places of worship and other amenities such as parks and recreation centers. Those with a driver’s license who live in the suburbs or a rural area may seek a more central location to reduce travel time. Those who don’t drive — or who anticipate being unable to drive in the foreseeable future — may desire a home with easy access to public transit or within walking distance of various amenities.    

Health — To ensure ongoing healthcare needs are met. Needs may include one or more of the following: medication management, medical monitoring, a special diet, skilled nursing care, personal care (assistance with washing, dressing and grooming) and supervision or assistance with mobilization.

Residence options

There are many possibilities for alternate living arrangements, depending on a person’s needs and preferences. Among the options are:

  • moving in with a relative or friend for companionship and perhaps also practical assistance, and to share expenses;
  • moving to a similar-sized home with a more suitable design;
  • downsizing to a smaller house or a condominium or apartment (some seniors apartments may be geared to those with low- to moderate-income; some have units for those with disabilities
  • moving to an active adult community;
  • moving to a long-term care setting, such as an assisted living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility).

In moving to a retirement community, it’s important to go beyond location, curb appeal and advertisements and take personal tours. Plan to visit several places, and take a relative or friend along for a second opinion.

Because a move in middle to late life usually involves downsizing, it’s wise — if you anticipate changing residences in the next few years — to begin now to sort through your possessions and sell or give away unneeded items. Typically it takes much longer than expected to go through this tedious and emotion-laden process.

If you intend to relocate in the near future, consider hiring a professional organizer to assist with the paring-down process, or a senior move specialist who can help with everything from planning to setting up in your new residence.

To locate such assistance, contact the National Association of Professional Organizers at www.napo.net or the National Association of Senior Move Managers at www.nasmm.org.