Many people retire here in Florida and find themselves with children all over the country. When the holidays come and family arrive to visit, life-changing questions often come up. The most frequent is “Why don’t you move closer to us? If you were nearer by, we’d be able to help you more, and provide extra support.”
Sometimes the idea of making a move doesn’t really take into consideration the reality. That’s why it is so important to have an open discussion about what you want and enjoy and how that will fit into the lives of family members. What services for older adults are there in the community you’d be moving to? Would your family really have time to fit you into their already crowded schedules? What would you be leaving behind, and how easy would it be to build a new network of friends?
There are no right or wrong answers. The important thing is to discuss the possibilities openly, to look at what’s best for everyone. “They want me to come north but it’s not what I want,” is a comment I sometimes hear. As one gentleman said, “I have things in place here to provide for care, I’m active in my church. I have friends here. At times I feel conflicted. It would be nice to be close to my family.”
Moving ranks second among the most stressful things we experience, and it can be even more stressful as we age, especially if we are caregiving. Moving after retirement was exciting. Contemplating this move generates other feelings and concerns and requires thoughtful consideration. What are the benefits and what are the losses?
Friendships change with age, and while we’d like to believe that friendships are forever, we may outlive our friends, they may become incapacitated and unable to provide the support we once envisioned. It may be wonderful to be close to family, but families often have their own very busy schedules. They have good intentions, but between running kids to soccer practice, ballet and other activities and working long hours, will they have time for me?
While everyone is well-intentioned, it doesn’t always work according to plan. Will you be able to build anew your own life so you aren’t relying on your family for everything? There is also climate change. Are you ready to don mittens and boots and deal with cold weather? If you are a caregiver, what will it be like to deal with the added stress of winter?
There is a lot to think about.
It helps to write a list of what you really want, what you don’t want, and think it through. You have choices. Talk about it with your family. Give the gift of honesty, so you won’t make an impulsive decision based on sheer emotion. It’s not easy, but it is important so that you look at what is truly best for everyone. It’s better to have a conversation earlier rather than later.
One couple I know decided to move closer to their children, because the cross-country trip from Florida to California was too much. They decided to move while they were still very active, to a community where there were a lot of things that interested them. They wanted to continue to connect to what they enjoyed doing, rather than relying on their children to fulfill their lives. This move afforded them both.
In another situation, a couple needing care moved north to be closer to their children, settling into a retirement community where care was available. They found opportunities to develop new friendships and spend valued time with family while receiving the support they needed. The transition was positive for everyone involved, because family members talked openly about the decision.
Communication is key. Identifying feelings, needs and wants and expressing them openly with family members is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other. Need help in starting the conversation? The Caregiver Resource Centers have valuable information, and there is a wealth of information on the web to help deal with life transitions, including the AARP website (AARP.com). The national Elder Helpline, or local Area Agency on Aging are starting points to research what services may be available for seniors in other areas.
About Paula Falk
Paula Falk is the Director of the Caregiver Resource Center (CRC) and Adult Day Service Program at The Living Room at Senior Friendship Centers’ Sarasota campus. The Caregiver Resource Center is a community collaboration bringing together agencies and businesses offering services and products to help caregivers through one of life’s more challenging times. For more information, call 941.556.3270, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www. friendshipcenters.org