How do I move easily and smoothly?
The short answer: Give yourself a lot of time, ideally. If you don’t have a lot, do all you can to think clearly during the move. When you discover a place that really works for you, you’ll find that retirement homes make the move easy as part of what they do. Many people have told us: “It goes smoother than you’ll ever think.” People on the following pages say moving was a great experience in more ways than one.
“It takes time to adapt to change, whether it’s a new job, new residence, or anything significant in your life,” says Roy Merkeley at Heritage Place Retirement Residence in Burlington. Adjusting to living in a seniors’ community is no different, but “there definitely are some pleasant surprises.” Roy and his wife, Lois, made the “life altering” adjustment over six years ago.
For Roy, the pleasant surprise in this transition was that he’s “not alone in this experience. [His] new neighbours [were just like us], trying to make the best out of this new chapter in their lives.”
Change is not so much a challenge as an adventure when everything about your new home is better than what you had. Heritage Place is “more suited to us old folk,” he says, with everything like meal service, housekeeping, and health services available there.
It’s a carefree lifestyle for Roy, and he likes everything about it, including the fact that he’s closer to family in the area. The thing he likes most, though, is living in the peer group. “I’ve found this transition to being a senior among seniors better than I thought it would be.”
The move has been worth it for Roy, and like many, he’s glad he did it early. That’s the dominant advice we hear from seniors and families. “Don’t wait until your loved one’s health changes,” cautions Darlene Kadonga, daughter of Stella, who lives at Lake Bonavista Village in Calgary. “Give them the opportunity to engage in a full life. By meeting new people, doing activities, you’ll see the spark in their eyes come back.”
We’ve heard from more than a few adult children whose main regret about their parents’ being in a retirement home is that they wish they’d made the move sooner, for their parents’ sake. You can ease them into “just looking,” the way Terry Steele’s daughter-in-law did, for example. Or loved ones can take a “no-commitment” trial stay at a community they’re interested in. This will give them a long glimpse at living there. It’s often the perfect bridge to a better life.
GO OUT FOR A “TEST DRIVE”
“It lets people experience our lifestyle first, if they’re not a hundred percent sure about a change,” says Jill Somerville of Credit River, in Mississauga. “They ‘take us for a test drive’ without having to sell their home and make a commitment. We do find that almost 100% of the time, they decide to stay permanently [because] they realize how easy life is without the stress of taking care of a home, shopping, and cooking.”
There may be occasions where the trial stay doesn’t work or where someone feels like they’re not ready. But most often, it’s an eye-opener for people. They do indeed change their minds.
COMMUNITIES EXCEL AT MAKING THE MOVE SMOOTH
Once you decide you’re going to move, you need to make some final decisions about what to do with your assets. This will be a very different process for every family, of course. It’s also too much to deal with in a space like this, but Comfort Life has three different online guides to help you at this stage:
Another thing that many people need to know is that the move can go much smoother than you anticipate. Communities are very experienced in making this easy for you. They’ll almost always have transition experts and moving companies they recommend.
But perhaps even more importantly, many of them go out of their way to make it a pleasant experience. Jenn Engels, whose parents moved from Montreal to Hazelton Place Retirement Residence in downtown Toronto, is one adult child who attests to the finesse the community brought to aiding the move.
Leslie Westlake, marketing manager, was just tireless in helping my parents get in and settled. [My parents] had paintings and things that required kidglove care. The movers went above and beyond. When my parents moved in, there was a lovely welcome basket with some flowers and a bottle of wine and some chocolates. Leslie had asked, ‘Do your parents drink?’ I told her they both like a nice bottle of wine. So they sent one, along with flowers. It just felt really personalized.
You’ll find that that’s how a lot of communities handle things. We’ve heard of many “seamless moves” from families, happy that what they worried so much about turned out so smoothly. In another anecdote of wonderful welcomes, Patty Harris related how her mom was treated her first day in her new home in Palermo Village in Burlington.
“She’d told somebody that turquoise was her favourite colour, and there was a set of lovely turquoise towels. And a card said, ‘Welcome, Marie. Hope you like your new towels.’ And there was a note on the door welcoming her. The staff all came by to welcome her … I was in the laundry room last week and she was being taken downstairs by one of the staff and I overheard her say, ‘I just love it here.’ She didn’t know I was in the laundry room, so it wasn’t for my benefit.”
Let us share one last story— Janice Benjamin’s, after her dad moved to The Livita Barrington Retirement Residence in Barrie. She’s just one of many who’ve gone through this ahead of you and wants to share:
My dad is super independent. He’s 93. He’s on the second floor. He brags about taking the elevator twice since he’s been there. He takes the stairs, he walks around the property, he’s active, and he is living the life! He is just very happy. He has absolutely minimal care, with the exception that his meals are made, his laundry is done, and his room is cleaned weekly—but he’s doing great.
The biggest thing for us was finding our parents a place where they were cared for, and this place is fabulous. They are treated with respect. My dad said the other day he heard some of the staff kind of laughing in the hallways. The staff enjoy themselves. They enjoy the residents. They’re kind and they call them by name. And he really said it just feels like a family, and we’re just so happy that we can’t, as a family, provide that for him, but The Livita can.
We’re so blessed. And we know as Dad ages, you can see some decline. And it was really important for us to get him moved somewhere that he considered his home, as opposed to waiting until after dementia has set in or something like that, then moving him, then dealing with confusion and things like that.
This is his home. I mean, he’s happy. He’s got his own furniture in there. Everything’s set up the way he wants it. He was able to choose the room he wanted, and he’s just happy. It was a wonderful move. It was just the best thing we could have done.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2022 Comfort Life Retirement Guide