Navigating the Emotional Journey: Helping Your Parents Downsize and Move

As our parents age, helping them downsize and move to a new home can be a complex journey. Retirement village living offers security and community as they age, but we know leaving home can also bring up feelings of sadness, loss, and change.

As children, we want nothing more than to support and care for our parents in their golden years. But this transition can sometimes be tricky and open communication is key to balancing independence and support. I hope you and your parents find comfort in knowing you’re not alone if you’re going through this.

In this article, we aim to share both the challenges and blessings many families have experienced to offer perspective, reassurance and solutions during this significant life transition.

Are they ready to move? Where are they on their emotional journey?

It is an exciting time for some parents to make their move. Their friends might live in lifestyle villages, and they want this lifestyle for themselves. During our conversations with residents, we have encountered both extremes – some had already decided to move, while others were unsure.

“We had no intention of going into a lifestyle village. But once we saw what was here we changed our mind about it”.
June

It has also been reported by residents that men sometimes have difficulty adjusting. So it’s crucial to ask about support networks, especially if your father is moving into a retirement home on his own. Fairview Lifestyle Village believes friendship is one of the best ways to support residents’ emotional and physical well-being.

Having friends helps older people avoid loneliness and social isolation, which can negatively affect their health and psychological well-being. This is why we have designed our facility to encourage social interaction. We offer a range of amenities, activities and common spaces for people to come together. A great example of how we help our male residents connect is the Single Malt Whisky Club For Men!

“So many blokes came in with their wives and said they didn’t want to come but are glad they are now”.
Jim

“There is even a get-together for men, they bring us together for a meeting once a week. No one is isolated . . . You live longer if you aren’t”.
Bill

Shake off preconceived ideas

It is common for people to have preconceived notions of retirement communities, sometimes shaped by their experiences with their parents. Today there are many different options, including independent living, assisted living, and care homes. There is also a big difference between a retirement village and a lifestyle village.

“I didn’t think it would be like this. I thought it would be a lot of old people walking around with walkers. But when we moved in here there were only three people with walkers, out of 364!”
Barry

“When I moved in here one of my good friends would give me stick about it. He would say ‘How’s things at the rest home, did they come and tuck you into bed last night alright?’ And then one day I was at the bar and he came up to me and said ‘You know I’m only joking, in fact, I’m quite envious of you’. Since then out of the group of 10, 4 others have moved into a lifestyle village.”
Mark

Decide which retirement living option is best

Fairview Retirement Village Auckland Blog Navigating The Emotional Journey 2

Lifestyle villages are independent living communities, with nursing support on hand if needed. A retirement village can be more of an assisted living facility. While care homes provide a higher level of specialised care.

In some cases, levels of support required for spouses will differ, so finding a community that supports the spouse who needs it while allowing the other spouse to live a full and independent life is essential.

Take Barry and June as an example.

“Four years ago June had a stroke. This is another thing that coming in here gives us – they offer 24-hour emergency response alarms and daily well-being clinics.”

But for June health wasn’t the deciding factor, “it was so Barry could mix with other people” and not have to worry so much about her.

Understand the different legal structures and fees

Licence to occupy, unit title and lease for life are the main options. According to Village News, “Licences to occupy are the most common way to live in a retirement village in New Zealand”.

To learn more about this option, and to hear from retirees that have made this decision, please check out this article: Licence to occupy: is it right for you?

Plan for today and tomorrow

While your parents may be living a fully independent life now, that may change 10 or 20 years from now. So wherever you decide to live, factor in what level of support is available in the future. Residents of Fairview Lifestyle Village have priority access to Fairview Care, which provides hospital and rest home care with in-house GP visits three days a week and 24/7 nursing care.

Acknowledge the reasons why you’re considering moving to a village

Fairview Retirement Village Auckland Blog Navigating The Emotional Journey 3

Write down the reasons why you’re considering moving. During this time, your parents may feel uncertain about whether they’re making the right decision. Having a list of why they’re looking is helpful for referring back to.

Common reasons people decide to make the move are:

  1. Property maintenance is becoming too much
  2. They want certainty around budgeting. Rates, maintenance, water, etc., are increasing. Budgeting is easier when you have a fixed fee. Especially if they’re fixed for life.
  3. They have concerns around security
  4. They want reassurance that health support is on hand if they need it
  5. They’re lonely or feel stuck in a rut and want to inject some variety and vibrancy into their lives
  6. They want to free up cash
  7. They want to enjoy their free time rather than having to take care of chores. If you don’t have to worry about home maintenance and gardening, you can focus your energy on doing what you love.

“As you get older you have less energy but you now have more time. You can use the energy to do the things you want to do, rather than the things you have to do”.

Create Your Wish List

Having found out where your parents are emotionally, and acknowledging their reasons for moving, you’re ready to understand their desires and plan for their retirement.

  1. How would the setting look? A new ultra-modern village or homely one. Are they content with a compact village, or do they want a feeling of openness with wide corridors, and high ceilings, set amid park-like grounds?
  2. Do they want to live in an apartment, townhouse or villa?
  3. What would their home look like e.g. size, layout, decor, configuration. The look and feel of the apartment are also important factors to keep in mind. Some retirement homes are ultra-modern, while others are more traditional. A traditional look can give you a feeling of homeliness. It can provide you with the comfort you need to settle in.
  4. Where do they want to live? Close to family and friends, in the suburb they’ve always lived in?
  5. What would their preferred community feel like e.g. connected and supported, fun and energetic, quiet and peaceful, secure and private.
  6. Would they choose to live somewhere where there are lots of activities? Is social connectivity important to them, or do they prefer to keep to themselves?
  7. How important are facilities to them e.g. pool, spa, gym, restaurants, bowling greens? Lifestyle communities can be a lot like resorts this way, but not everyone wants those amenities
  8. What kind of services would they like, such as housekeeping?
  9. Do they want the option of maintaining their own garden?
  10. Are grandchildren allowed to stay overnight? What are the rules around having guests?
  11. Would they like an aged care facility on site that they have priority access to if needed?
  12. Do they want to join a community where residents have a say e.g. there’s a residents committee? Is resident autonomy important to them? In some villages, the level of management control is greater than in others.
  13. What level of security do they want?
  14. Do they want nursing support on-site?
  15. Do they want to bring a pet?
  16. Do they want the option of meals being brought to them if they can’t cook for themselves?

What structure is preferred?

Once you’ve defined your ideal retirement lifestyle, it’s time to choose a structure. To get a better idea of what’s best for them, it’s important to understand the differences between licence-to-occupy, unit title, and lease for life retirement homes.

Before choosing which option is best for your parents, be sure to research and understand each option. For an in-depth understanding of each option, you may wish to consult an expert.

Start looking together

Now that you know what your parents want, it’s time to start searching. You can take your time and explore various retirement living options with your parents to help them understand what a retirement living lifestyle can offer them. Retirement living isn’t the same as it used to be 30 years ago. In lifestyle villages, you can have it all: activities, freedom, and security.

Taking your checklist with you can help, but also be prepared to change your mind! Take this example:

When Brent’s sister heard he’d moved into a retirement apartment she said to him “There’s no way I’m living in an apartment”. But after seeing Brent’s and going on a tour of the village, she changed her mind. After just two hours she’d put down a deposit on an apartment at Settlers. She’d never lived in an apartment before and was scared of heights so she wasn’t keen on the third floor – until she saw the views from the top. That was it, she said – “I want to live here”.

When you go on your tours, make sure you talk to some of the residents too. Get a feel for the village vibe.

Acknowledge your emotions too

Fairview Retirement Village Auckland Blog Navigating The Emotional Journey 4

This journey may also be emotional for you. For many of us, our parents have been the ones to care and support us in a myriad of ways and now that dynamic is changing: we must do more to protect and care for them.

Saying goodbye to the family home can be incredibly hard for children too, especially if they are still in the home you grew up in.

Naturally, you will be concerned about their financial security, physical security, and health, so these factors are really important to consider as well. The most important thing is to know that your parents are somewhere safe, where they will be cared for. The responsibilities of caring for elderly parents, as well as work, children, and our properties, can be overwhelming, so don’t ignore the importance of this reassurance for yourself.

Conclusion

Helping your parents downsize and move is a significant step in helping them transition into retirement living. It is crucial to acknowledge the emotional journey that comes with this process and understand how to support and guide them every step of the way. With the right approach and a clear understanding of their desires, you can help your parents create a retirement lifestyle that suits them and supports their needs.