April is what most realtors consider to be the beginning of the “market season.” Winter has nearly – I did say nearly – left us, and everyone’s houses and yards begin to look like showcases. I have shared a lot of postings in the past about the kind of residential options that may be right for your older parent who is ripe for the move. But the fact a growing trend may be that a lot of older adults may not move or make a transition to new housing.
Have you had this conversation with your older parent, leaving contact information for a residential facility, but they never made the phone call? Or has your older parent confided that they would really be fine with moving, but they want the new home to be just like the present one? Or do they simply state, point blank, that they cannot leave the home where they raised their children, entertained their grandchildren or even said goodbye to their lifelong partner? All of these point to an emotional bond that makes it difficult, or perhaps even impossible, for mom or dad to ever leave their residence.
You are not without options, but remember that it has to be their choice, and patience is important. But try this approach. Offer to make a scrapbook with pictures of all the rooms that can be captioned. You might even include vintage pictures of the same rooms from when the kids were younger or when a holiday was celebrated. A memory book of home is transportable no matter where mom or dad lives. You may even take this up a notch and create a literal home video with mom’s or dad’s narration to make all the memories and rooms come alive.
And moving experts whom I know suggest exporting your parent’s “nest” to a new residence. The nest is the place with all the family photos looking down, or the magazine rack or the most comfortable chair which may be home to the remote control for the TV. Take photos of that spot so that you can take the furniture and the pictures and yes, the remote, to a new residence that will give the feel of home.
There are other strictly financial reasons why your older parent may not move. Mortgage and property tax debt is rising among adults 75 years of age and older. It is their fixed incomes which explain why 75+ year olds have had a higher foreclosure rate in the recession and post-recession era than the 50+ year olds. In fact the foreclosure rate among the 75+ year olds has been 23 times higher in 2011 than it was as recently as 2007. And it no longer is a given that older adults will have “burned their mortgages” before they retire. Add to this what Forbes Magazine has called the “Greatest Financial Crisis for Older Adults” – a lack of retirement savings. The average older adult today has only about $25,000 in their 401-K, hardly enough to move to a senior residence anywhere… let alone one on a golf course.
So, as you speak with your older parent about residential options, be listening for the cues. They may not be willing to move. But even more sobering, they may not be financially able to move from their house. Be sensitive. Ask questions. Make no judgments. Explore all the options … including intergenerational living accommodations.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.