Residential Moving

Navigating senior relocation: What influences older adults to make a move

By Steve Gurney, Founder, Positive Aging Community

This is the second in a four-part series about helping older adults move to a new home. In the first post, we summarized moving options available to older adults. In this post, we’ll explore why seniors move and some factors that influence their decision to move.

Researchers have identified at least 88 different potential factors that influence whether and when older adults move. Some of those factors are financial, such as whether they can afford the housing costs where they live. Others are related to mobility, such as whether they need help with performing daily activities. Yet others are social and psychological, including how close they are in proximity to friends and family, and whether they feel independent.

As time goes by, some factors may have more influence than others. You can help your loved one make the right decision by recognizing when it’s time to relocate. Some signals that they might need or want to move include:

When they retire

Many seniors make a move after they retire, but it’s not something they should rush into lightly. As their career winds down and they weigh their options, you can help them sort through their motivations for moving. If they’re set on moving, you can help them calculate the costs of moving and prioritize other to-do items retirees must do for a smooth relocation.

When they are lonely

Older adults social activityMany seniors spend much of their time alone. That’s unfortunate, because older adults with social lives are happier and have better health outcomes than those who are isolated. If your loved one doesn’t have opportunities to socialize, then it may be time for them to move.

Social isolation can happen gradually over time, as they lose mobility, or when friends move away. Alternately, there may be triggering events, such as the death of a spouse, sibling, or close friend.

It can be difficult to establish new social networks later in life, but the effort is worth the reward. Whether it means moving to a retirement community, moving closer to children and grandchildren, or both, relocation can help alleviate a difficult part of getting older – loneliness.

When they need help with daily activities

Moving tends to cause anxiety, especially for an older adult who’s lived in the same home for a long time. Yet there may be a time when your loved one can no longer take care of themselves.

The health care community use the term “activities of daily living” (ADL) to describe the types of basic necessary tasks engaged in by humans. It includes broad categories such as ‘eating’ and ‘dressing’ and ‘personal hygiene.’

People who require help with ADLs can receive it through various channels. One channel is assisted living communities. If your loved one has trouble with cooking, showering, using the restroom, or other ADLs, it may be time for them to move. This post from AgingCare is a great resource for recognizing the signs that it’s time for a senior to move to assisted living.

When their finances run low

Older adults on fixed incomes tend to stay in their homes and not move, especially if the house they live in is paid for. However, seniors with precarious financial situations are vulnerable to shock events – an unexpected hospital bill, for instance – that require them to sell their house and move. Depending on their financial situation, they might downsize to an apartment, move in with family, or relocate to an assisted living facility.

When they need specialized care

Many of the ADLs mentioned above become difficult for seniors as the result of aging and nothing more. However, some ADLs can be impacted by more serious long-term health needs, such as dementia. If your loved one is experiencing early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or has other long-term acute health issues, it may be time for them to relocate to an assisted living community that offers specialized care.


About the Author
Today, we are joined by guest author, Steve Gurney from PositiveAging Community. In 1990, Steve founded PositiveAging Sourcebook, a comprehensive listing of every retirement community, assisted living, nursing and rehab center, and home care options in DC, Northern Virginia, and Suburban Maryland. The PositiveAging Community makes finding housing, aging in place solutions, and resources more convenient by connecting older adults, families, and providers via the most comprehensive and trusted resources in print and digital formats.