Moving to a new city can be a wonderful way for your aging loved one to feel rejuvenated. Getting to know a brand new place, seeing fresh sights, and meeting new people are all wonderful benefits of relocating. And although there are a few stressful aspects involved with a move, the experience can provide your loved one with just the right amount of challenge to reignite their inspiration and engagement with life.
An older adult might need or want to move for any number of reasons: it might be to live closer to you or other family members, to enjoy more affordable housing, or to have access to better care. Despite the emotional ups and downs, relocating as an aging adult is often ultimately worth it—especially if your loved one can engage in a supportive new community.
How to Help Your Loved One Transition into a New Community
No matter what the underlying motivation is, relocating and learning how to integrate into a strange city can be a challenge for an older adult. Fortunately, caregivers and family members can help their aging loved ones to embrace and engage in their new neighborhood.
Communicate Openly and Compassionately
Even if your loved one is happy to be moving, they will likely still be feeling stressed, anxious, and perhaps fearful of getting to know a brand new place. Talking through their fears and anxieties can offer them a safe space to share—and also provide you with important information about how to further help them adjust.
- Acknowledge and understand fears: Listen to your loved one when they share their anxieties, and try to offer a practical solution for each one.
- Communicate with compassion: Let your loved one know that you are there to offer unconditional support during this transition, and continue to communicate this to them throughout the course of the move.
- Focus on the positives: Get them excited about all the fun things they can do in their new city—and start by planning some activities to do together.
Create a Familiar Routine
Helping your loved one to establish a routine in their new home can make them feel more comfortable—and more energized to start engaging in a new locale.
- Match their meals: Try to ensure your loved one has access to foods they enjoy eating and are familiar with. This might mean heading out to their favorite chain restaurant or making sure a home-cooked meal is served at a regular time each day.
- Find similar activities: If your loved one enjoyed doing certain activities in their old city, such as gallery-hopping or going to coffee shops, find similar ones they can do in their new city.
- Cater to their personality: Be considerate of your loved one’s personality type. If they’re introverted, ensure they have a quiet space they can retreat to in their new abode. For extroverts, make sure they have social time—whether through a group Skype chat or in-person meetup.
- Keep important numbers handy: Gather emergency phone numbers for doctors, trusted friends, and taxi services, and help your loved one find an easily accessible spot for the information close to their telephone.
Explore Local Transportation
Familiarizing your loved one with local transportation options can help them to feel empowered and independent in their new city.
- Discover public transit: Find out how the public transit system works, whether it’s senior-friendly, and possible discounts for people over 65.
- Find driving services: Get phone numbers for senior-friendly driving services, such as Lyft and SilverRide (or the equivalent in your area).
- Seek accessible rides: If your loved one is in a wheelchair, source information for accessible taxis and buses, as well as places like grocery stores. Inquire about private drivers to help them get around more easily.
- Join your loved one: Accompany them on trips using public transit or in taxis until they feel comfortable going on their own. If you live far away, hire a part-time caregiver to do this.
Meet New People
To help your aging loved one fully engage with a new place, encourage them to meet new friends by getting involved in different neighborhood activities.
- Engage in activities: Not only will your loved one feel more connected to their neighborhood, but attending local activities and events is a great way to make new friends.
- Contact community centers: See what their calendar of events looks like, and which ones your loved one might enjoy.
- Peak their interest: Find activities that match your loved one’s interests. If they like reading or one-on-one conversation, check the local library for senior discussion groups. Or, if they’re more into birdwatching, find a birding group in the area.
- Encourage exercise: Learn what fitness activities are available for older adults in the area. Depending on what your loved one likes to do, they might want to join a swimming class, Tai Chi training, or a walking group.
Relocating can be made a lot easier for your loved one when they feel wholly supported and safe during the transition. By figuring out logistics like transportation, encouraging fun social activities, and facilitating a familiar routine, caregivers can help their aging loved ones to feel excited about exploring their new surroundings. Discovering what a different community has to offer can be really wonderful and even healing at times: meeting new people and being immersed in a new environment can help your loved one to feel challenged and energized about life while remaining as independent as possible.
If you’re unsure how to best support your aging loved one in their new community, Institute on Aging provides a variety of services, programs, and online resources to help. Contact us today to learn more.