Moving can be an exciting and overwhelming time in anyone’s life. Whether it be your first apartment out of college or the home you raise your family in, it will take some time to feel comfortable. This rings especially true when a family member or friend who makes the decision to move to a senior living community, or if you are in the position of helping a loved one make the decision to move. For many seniors, this move can feel rather abrupt thus making the transition harder.
While you can’t make a senior fall in love with their new home right away, there are a few steps you can take to ease the transition. Here are a few tips to help with the initial move:
Find a community that’s right for them
There are several factors to consider when moving into a new home. Before touring a senior community, start by researching the best local options and their offerings. Do they offer amenities important to your loved one? Is there room for them to grow and achieve their goals? What makes the community unique? Are they a not-for-profit? Who is running the company? Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take your loved one for a tour and use this as an opportunity to learn all you can. Speak with resident’s directly. Ask them what their favorite part about living in the community is, as well as their least favorite, and take those insights into consideration. Don’t limit yourself to touring the community once, either. Tour your top two or three options a couple times and support your loved one to weigh in on their top choice. It is, after all, their decision.
Bring their home to life
In many instances, moving your loved one from their current home to a senior community means adopting a place that looks like all the rest. Seek out a community that allows your loved one to stylize their surroundings to fit their personality and needs. Talk about right-sizing and the importance of assessing personal belongings. Your loved one may be making tough decisions about re-homing furniture or belongings that have special memories associated with them. To ensure this new place shapes up and feels like home, be sure to support their decision making regarding meaningful items. Whether that be artwork, family photos, linens or all the above, those small touches will make the unfamiliar seem familiar.
Encourage them to take advantage of community
Another way to help your loved one get settled and integrated in their new community is to get them involved in activities and excited about the amenities offered. Many senior living communities offer art programs, exercise classes, spa & salon services, and even opportunities to grow your own garden at home. If your loved one has a green thumb, encourage them to cultivate their own garden, or to initiate a new hobby so that they take ownership over their new space. Having hobbies and participating in group activities with neighbors will help your loved one integrate into the community and develop amazing friendships along the way! Does the community host Happy Hour? This is a great way to make friends!
Ensure they maintain their independence
When making the jump into a new community, loved ones will often feel like they are losing their independence. It’s important they maintain connections to their life outside the community. If they don’t have the option to drive, help them find alternative ways to get around. Often, transportation services are available by appointment or for scheduled bus rides to shopping and public activities to help keep residents actively engaged. Ask about these amenities during your tours and keep this top of mind when making a decision.
Visit as often as possible
If your loved one always had the option to visit you or vice versa, this move could feel like they are “out of sight, out of mind.” This feeling could make transitioning that much harder. Instead, communicate with them to learn what they are experiencing and help them to feel heard. Let them know you are accessible. Oftentimes, you and your extended family are what truly make “home” feel like home. The more often your family member sees you, the more they will feel comfortable with the transition.
It will take time for your loved one to become acclimated with their new surroundings. While this transition may not be smooth sailing right away, the staff and fellow residents are there to help make it easier. With time, effort and patience, your family member will soon realize their life can continue as usual with new friendships and a community that supports healthy aging.