Help Aging Parents: Downsizing, Leaving Home, Loss– Part 3

A move that aging parents haven’t initiated understandably triggers feelings of many types of loss: of abilities, of self-esteem, of independence, of optimism.

Being smack in the middle of downsizing–preparing to move after decades in one’s home–is daunting.  The thought was daunting even before we began.

Everyone comments “How exciting!” when hearing a NY city apartment awaits us. True, it is exciting to think about moving back to NYC where we lived for several years after graduate school; but we’ve been too busy to give much time to that kind of thinking.

Another kind of thinking continually pops into my head, however. It’s the thought that moving from one’s home at any age is unsettling.  When we consider the stress and feelings we experience and we’ve initiated the move, we can understand why thoughts of moving from their home is so distressing for older people.

3 Reasons

If it’s a move that aging parents haven’t initiated, often to assisted living on a “campus” with facilities for levels of care, it’s in-their-face recognition that:
—they are unable to carry on life as they have for so many decades
—others recognize this and no longer have confidence in their abilities to remain as independent as they have been
—this is probably their last stop before the cemetery.

Moving under these circumstances understandably triggers feelings of many types of loss: of abilities, of self-esteem, of independence, of optimism.  It must be accompanied by an overarching sense of what was and what lies ahead.  For older people who feel forced to move this has to be very sobering.

I think of all the memories that surface with every box and folder that is opened, with every photo and piece of saved stuff that is examined. My husband and I smile and think of how of good it was, forgetting the challenges which seemed so big at the time.

We are looking forward, not moving that far from our present community, and it’s exciting.  Yet I know realistically there will be a time when we will look back, assuming we reach a ripe old age. Upon reaching 89 Dad often said, “When you can look back many more years than you can look forward, you know you’re old.” I truly don’t think he felt old until he began saying that.

Perhaps it’s because he never had to move, he never confronted that kind of sobering change and the feelings of loss that go with it. Yet clearly, living that long, Dad experienced many kinds of loss.

Understanding the components of moving–which involve change, and energy, and downsizing and organization and loss–provides us with sensitivity to think twice about their impact and understandings to help our aging parents. Won’t it also help us when the time comes?

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