Moving and Downsizing

The Emotional Side of Moving: Talking About Moving with Seniors

May 15, 2016

Updated June 15, 2023

Navigating conversations about moving with seniors can be a daunting task. Determining the right approach and timing can be challenging. Additionally, choosing the ideal retirement residence and keeping the discussion flowing smoothly requires careful consideration.

The saying "home is where the heart is" resonates with all of us. However, in today's dynamic society, frequent moves have become the norm for many Canadians. We transition from our parents' homes to shared living spaces during our educational years, then move in and out with partners or for various reasons such as work or family obligations. Eventually, as retirement approaches, downsizing to a smaller home or even transitioning to a retirement residence might be on the horizon. Even then, families are faced with the potential of multiple etirement ome and Long-Term Care home moves if not chosen carefully.

The mere thought of all these moves can be exhausting. Society has grown accustomed to this fast-paced, technologically advanced world, and we often assume that our loved ones will adjust to changes as swiftly as we do. However, it is crucial for those dealing with aging populations and the sandwich generation to recognize the potential obstacles that may arise when faced with the prospect of a senior's impending move.

The aging population and the presence of the sandwich generation, caught between caring for elderly parents and their own families, will continue to be significant factors in our society. Consequently, it is essential for the loved ones of seniors to carefully evaluate and address any challenges that may arise when discussing and facilitating a move. By approaching these conversations with empathy, patience, and open communication, we can ensure the well-being and happiness of our seniors during this transition phase.

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. If you find yourself struggling with how to have "The Talk", I have created a in-depth workshop that will help you through not only The Living Arrangements Talk but 6 other "The Talks" in Eldercare.

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 support to minimize the stress of “the talk.” Contact us today at or (613) 698.1319.

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