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Minneapolis gerontologist Laura Hopp conducted a study involving 62 older adults (age 55+) who had recently gone through the move to an independent living community. The study looked at reasons surrounding to decision and what things made the move difficult or easier.
The top reasons for leaving were the participants' homes were no longer suitable for physical needs and the maintenance increasingly difficult (30%). Being closer to family and building a social network was a close second (28%). Downsizing and letting go of possessions was the hardest part of the move for 39%, followed by leaving friends and community (30%). Most (54%) found nothing could make the move easier, although getting rid of belongings would have made the move easier. Hopp states, "because possessions hold many memories, it's difficult to let go. But some wanted to watch loved ones enjoy gifts while they were still alive. Many participants talked about giving belongings to charity, with donations to a local library or historical society other, satisfactory options."
Hopp believes that most moves are prompted by adult children. "This is partly related to their being caught in the middle between their parents and their own children. [Parenthood] does not allow the adult child to give their parents the care they need. This often then leads the children to look at a community of care for their parents. Most often the children come looking at communities...before they bring Mom or Dad by to visit or tour."
When asked what advice they'd give to other seniors contemplating a move to an independent living community, the study participants said to be sure you understand the facility, the services offered, and talk to current residents. Additionally, get involved in the new community as soon as possible, don’t bring too many belongings, use a good moving company, and do it before it is no longer your decision.