The decision to trade the comfort of home where you’ve lived for years and transition to retirement can evoke a range of emotions. From leaving behind a place that holds memories of having raised an active family to sorting feelings around a perceived loss of freedom can be overwhelming.
"One of the hardest things to do is embrace change," said therapist Carol Barnaby, LCSW. The older we get the harder it is to embrace change. It takes about three to six months to adjust to new changes and routines."
"That space between ending what was and becoming what will be can be a dark and scary place," added Carolyn Lorente, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Northern Virginia Community College.
Finding a retirement community where one feels comfortable can help make the transition easier. Virginia was ranked number one in the country for having the best resources for seniors by SeniorAdvice.com, an independent, non-profit organization that offers free information and guidance.
Touring a community before selecting one or deciding to move can allay fears of the sterile living conditions and sedentary lifestyles that are often associated with retirement communities, advises Barnaby. "Find activities to join in the care facility," said Barnaby. "Joining groups allows people to form connections."
One such community is Sunrise of Old Town, which is scheduled to open later this spring. "We have activities going all day long to keep our seniors active and moving so that they have a sense of purpose," said Maggie McElroy of Sunrise. "Residents can bring their furnishings to help make their suites feel more like home."
Creating a sense of the familiarity of one's old home can make the transition less jarring. "We can bring items like photos and decorations that help recreate the familiar home environment," said Jerome Short, Ph.D., professor of psychology at George Mason University. "Then think about good aspects of the move for our health and safety."
"Take time to actively think about memories in your home and reminisce," said psychologist Stacie Isenberg, Psy.D. "You can do this while packing up. Take photos of each room before you pack up and consider making a video where you walk through it and narrate events that happened in the room. It will be a nice keepsake to reflect on … and a way to get closure and say goodbye to your home.”