Christmas is over and for many families, it’s a time to enjoy spending time together, while also thinking about the year ahead and reflecting on what has changed. If you hadn’t seen your parents in a while, you may have noticed that they seemed less able to manage a large house – for example, having difficulty managing a vacuum due to mobility issues, or forgetting to take out the rubbish. In fact, the post-holiday period and new year often sees an uptick of people thinking about downsizing or moving into a retirement village.
Planning a conversation about downsizing
As an adult child, you may be reluctant to bring up the topic of downsizing to a more manageable living arrangement – it’s a huge decision and many people simply put it off rather than facing the sale of a much-loved family home or admitting that they can’t manage it.
But while it may be a difficult conversation, it’s worth having. Living in a large property can be overwhelming, isolating and sometimes even dangerous for older people, particularly if there is no family close by, or if there is now only one parent who is grieving and lonely.
While you may meet some resistance when you bring up downsizing, it’s worth persisting. Ultimately you want it to be their decision, and the best way to ensure that is to ask them what their plans are, what they need help with, and what they would like to happen next.
A change is as good as a holiday
Retirement villages and land lease communities now offer so many options – swimming pools, beautiful surroundings, shared facilities, exercise classes, excursions, and regular opportunities to socialise – and it may be that the move gives your parents something to work towards.
Once they have sifted through the family home and are living somewhere more manageable, they may even prefer the reduced responsibility, and find they have more energy to travel, keep fit and just enjoy life with a lock-and-leave lifestyle.
Another thing to consider is that your parents may be able to find somewhere closer to where you live, which will lead to more opportunities to spend time with them. Plus, retirement villages and land lease communities are designed with the needs of older people in mind, and offer security, reduced stress and a sense of community, as well as access to health care and regular exercise – all factors that can relieve isolation, and the accompanying depression and anxiety that can arise in seniors.
But my parents aren’t ready yet
A common response when the question of downsizing comes up is that Mum or Dad isn’t ready to leave their family home. And they may never be, but timing is critical – is it better to move into a retirement village or land lease community when you are still fit and well, and can manage the upheaval and go on to enjoy a new environment?
Or do you stay and run the risk of putting it off for so long that when it’s time to move you are no longer physically able, which puts the burden on family members to sort out the house and its contents?
Again, these are not easy conversations. But ideally, you want your parents to have some say in where they live next, and to find somewhere that they will enjoy and feel comfortable with. By opening up the conversation long before your parents need to move, they’ll have more time to make the right decision. Adult children are the best people to spark up these early conversations, as they have their parents’ best interests in mind and can guide them through the process while supporting their decisions and safeguarding their wellbeing.
So if you have noticed some changes over the holiday period that suggest your parents need to downsize, make time to chat. The most important thing when it comes to these conversations is to be empathetic and tactful. Talk about the importance of health and safety, and the increased opportunities that a move will bring for social contact, support and family time – particularly if they end up living closer to their children.
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We’re committed to making life better for the over 55s. Check out downsizing.com.au for more insights and great advice on living life to the fullest.