Moving and Downsizing

The Emotional Side of Moving: Talking About Moving with Seniors

May 15, 2016

It’s really hard to know how to talk to seniors about moving. How and when do you bring it up? What is the best retirement residence? What steps do you take to keep the discussion going?

Home is where the heart is. We’ve all used this saying at one time or another.

Today, moving is the norm —  Canadians tend to move multiple times. From parents’  homes to school, in with roommates, out with roommates. We move in and out with significant others, for work, for family,  in retirement to a smaller home and then maybe to a retirement residence.

It’s exhausting just thinking about it! We, as a society, have become so accustomed to moving that it’s commonplace. We’re used to this fast-paced, tech-savvy world and when it comes to moving a loved one, we expect that they’ll be able to get on the same page with us, as quickly as we can.

The ageing population and the sandwich generation, will not be disappearing in the near future and seniors’ loved ones need to take a hard look at some of the obstacles that may be in the way when faced with an impending move.

A Lifetime of Memories

Having worked with over 2000 seniors and spoken to thousands more, I’ve learned that they on average have spent 50 years in their homes. Consider the memories made, the familiarity and comfort they must have in their homes. To get a better feel for this, estimate how many time you’ve moved in the last 25 years. I’ve calculated that in the last 10 years I’ve moved 15 times. It’s second nature to me, and probably to you as well.

After 50+ years, people become deeply rooted in their neighbourhoods. They know where everything is, how long it takes to get there and they usually have one or two neighbours who “keep an eye out for me. ” A few common concerns from the seniors with whom I work are “Everything I need is here.” “I won’t know anyone.” “If I move I will be the talk of the town and I don’t want people to know.” These are just a few of the hurdles that need to be jumped and we haven’t even left the front door.

If a decision to move to a retirement residence is on the horizon, concerns usually turn to: “How do I know what the best retirement residence is?” “You just want me to move so you can get my money.” or “Please don’t put me in a home.”

Surprisingly enough, I’ve had multiple conversations with seniors who actually feel that they will have to do the physical move themselves, remembering what it was like 50+ years ago when they were the movers.

Two people looking at an old photo album
A lifetime of memories

In order to have an open discussion, making sure everyone’s heard, consider the following on how to start the conversation:

How to start the conversation with your loved ones

  1. Start by doing your own thorough assessment of the situation.
  2. Research some options to address the situation, e.g. home care, retirement residence, living with you, etc. Research, but don’t do anything yet. I find this critical. If you want everyone feeling involved, it’s important to not move at your speed but to move at theirs.
  3. Set up a time to discuss the situation with your loved ones. Make sure that they know what the topic of conversation is. Nothing is worse, and will immediately shut down a conversation, than them feeling sideswiped.
  4. Let your loved ones know of your concerns and possible solutions. Keeping an open dialogue will help everyone.
  5. Proceed through the necessary steps at their speed, retirement residence research and tours, downsizing, home selling, etc.

This conversation isn’t the easiest and many prefer that it never needs to happen, but to ensure the safety and care of your loved ones you’ll need to grab the reins and help steer. Luckily there are many resources in your community who can help navigate the system and provide you with insight and support.

Did you find this blog helpful? Many others are struggling with how to talk to seniors about moving. Help them by sharing on Facebook or Twitter with the links on the right.

Need help talking to a loved one about moving? Tea & Toast’s retirement living advisors provide complementary support to minimize the stress of “the talk.” Contact us today at or (613) 698.1319.

Read next

Recommended read