Approaching this Difficult Conversation
Common sense says no one lives for the day they have to sell their home and move into 55+ housing. The freedom that comes with owning your own home is immense. Unfortunately, so are the responsibilities and the energy it takes to carry them out. There comes a time when caring for a home becomes more difficult, and living alone isn’t without risk or challenges. It’s usually at this time that older adults opt to move into senior-friendly housing. Many, however, don’t see the need, even though their grandchildren do.
Having a conversation with your grandparents about moving into one of the active adult communities near them requires tact, positivity, and empathy. Forcing them to make the move only leads to resentment; it should be their choice.
Modernize Their Image of 55+ Apartments
Many of our senior citizens haven’t recently visited a modern apartment building for active adults, if at all. They may have a made-for-television image of what those are like, and most often, those ideas skew toward nursing home-type assumptions. Many also see moving out of their home and into a senior apartment as a step closer to dying.
To overcome this mindset, consider visiting a 55+ active adult community, so that your grandparents can see what it’s really like. They’ll probably be pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant community full of people like them, who are embracing life and participating in the leisure and recreational activities they’ve always wanted to devote more time to.
Your grandparents also may enjoy touring the apartments in the community to get a sense of what they’re like. Most active adult housing is decorated in the latest styles, with durable, easy-to-clean finishes that truly simplify the responsibilities of upkeep and cleanliness.
When you tour, emphasize how much privacy the residents have, how quiet the building is, and how spacious the apartment is to help your grandparents visualize their life there.
Talk Positively About the Move
It’s likely that you talk to your grandparents a lot about their housing situation. You may even be responsible for helping them care for their house and lawn.
When you bring up a possible relocation to 55+ apartments, put a positive spin on everything. Instead of talking about leaving the house behind, frame it to focus on leaving behind the exhausting work the house requires.
If moving away from long-established friends comes up, talk about all the wonderful people who reside in active adult communities and how they probably have shared interests and the perfect amenity spaces in which to enjoy those interests.
Take Advantage of “Teachable Moments”
In school, teachers refer to teachable moments as those that offer a relevant opportunity to discuss a topic a student might be interested in, based on current conversation or something that occurred in the classroom. Adults can have teachable moments, too.
When your grandparent is complaining about housing upkeep, you can mention that an active adult community requires none. If they’ve had a close call and nearly fallen, you can use the opportunity to mention that 55+ apartments often have people around to help them should something happen; they’ll never have to be completely alone.
Find Connections in the Community
Ask around to family and friends to find out if someone your grandparent knows lives in 55 and over apartments. Sometimes having that connection can aid in the decision-making process.
It will help your grandparents to not anticipate feelings of loneliness and be prepared to find familiar, friendly faces in their new home.
Unless living at home poses an immediate life-or-death risk to your grandparents, you can’t make the decision for them. Instead, you will have to be patient as your grandparents come to terms with the idea that it might actually be in their best interests to move to an active adult community so that they can fully enjoy the second chapter in their lives.
All you can do is express your concerns about them living alone and offer to help them with the relocation process, such as helping them prepare their home to list for sale, assisting them with downsizing and packing, and coordinating the day of the move. Offer your help, and end the conversation if it’s clear it’s going nowhere.
When They Make the Decision
After you’ve been kind and empathetic, your grandparents may come to the conclusion that it’s time to move into 55+ apartments. If they do, your presence during this difficult time can be of great comfort to them. Just remember that each decision about where to move, what possessions to get rid of or keep, and how much money to spend on hiring movers is ultimately up to them (especially if they’re floating the bill).
Let them make the decisions, but ask to be included in the process so you’re aware and can be helpful when needed. When they do finally make the move, they’ll be excited by the possibilities their new lifestyle holds for them, rather than regretful about leaving behind their family home.