There is a saying we like to throw around in the gerontological world, “Move by choice rather than by crisis.”
In an ideal world, we would all live in a particular dwelling for as long as we felt we were able to. This might be it our family home, in a housing complex where certain services and amenities are provided, with a family member or even on a boat!
And for the majority of us, this will hold true.
However, when we hit our mid- to late-’70s, a day will come when we will ask ourselves, “Should I move?” “How will I know when it is time to move?” and “What are my housing options?”
Given it’s September and Back to School is in the air, indulge me as I flap my gums and give you a lecture called Elderly Migration 101.
Several theories exist about one’s living environment as it relates to aging that help answer the question “to move or not to move?”
One such theory talks about how an individual needs to maintain a balance or equilibrium with their environment. When this balance is out of whack, a series of triggers can cause someone to instigate a move.
There is also an assumption that with age comes a change in our ability to maintain this balance. There are certain age-related changes that may occur including a decline in health, death of a spouse, loss of family support or change in financial status, which act as triggers to an altered living arrangement.
For those individuals who own their own homes, there is an increased likelihood of home maintenance and repairs (think Comox Box), challenges with mobility (think two-storey home), difficulty with housework and for many, loneliness (loss of a spouse) or isolation (loss of driver’s licence, living beyond the HandyDART boundaries or having a large acreage with few people nearby).
As a result, homes may feel less comfortable, unsafe, too costly and seniors are faced with deciding what housing will best suit their immediate and future care needs.
In my experience, though, the majority of seniors are reluctant to leave their homes. There is a sense of attachment to one’s home that can act as an anchor.
Attachment to one’s homes is very personal and varied. For some seniors, their homes are a part of family tradition and memories and of then they feel all they have is their home.
For others, their home is very comfortable, despite a lack of upkeep and repairs. In fact, they feel so at ease with their environment and the design, seniors often choose to stay.
Finally, the ability to remain independent in one’s home often becomes a symbol of one’s continued independence and control.
It’s easy to see how complicated the decision to move can be. There are many factors, both psychological and physical, when choosing to stay or move.
As you eagerly wait for my next column on seniors housing, ask yourself this question, “At what point in your life, would you consider moving from your home?”
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.