When one thinks of experts in dealing with change, who does one think of first? What about people who have dealt with retirement, aging, health issues, and even the comings and goings of family and friends? Yes, those recognized as senior citizens in society are experts in change.
In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are two key changes that seniors have to deal with. First, seniors have to deal with the stress and changes of moving residences an average of 11.7 times throughout their lives. Second, the life expectancy in the United States has grown to 77.7 years from 61.7 years in 1935. With this additional 16 years comes that many more years of change to plan for and embrace. Fortunately for the seniors struggling to make these difficult choices and changes, with the help of seniorDECISION (www.seniordecision.com), seniors and families can browse through ratings and reviews of senior housing choices, and read reviews from other seniors who have had to make the adjustment to a new lifestyle in senior living communities.
In an article by Greg Hadley, a resident of a retirement community, he reflected that: “There is seldom a satisfactory outcome when new living arrangements become a requirement instead of a choice."
Yet, in a survey of seniors mostly aged 72 to 83, when asked about the reasons for not making a move at this point in life, the number one answer was “fear of change.” This was expressed in various ways such as:
• Going to strange surroundings
• Familiar to less familiar
• New setting
• Leaving current neighborhood
• Loss of neighbors/secure with current friends and neighbors
• Emotional separation from home
• Fear of unknown
Here are three steps for helping seniors work through this time of change.
First, listen without an agenda. If one can identify if the fear of change is emotional in nature (for example, concerns about connecting socially)or logistical in nature (for example, concerns about getting items packed and sorting through what to leave behind), then step two is more achievable.
Second, help the seniors prioritize their fears. If one starts to address the first fear that is expressed, it may not be the most important issue to the senior. Instead, once a fear is brought up, ask “are there any other issues you are considering?” and ask for the senior’s help in verifying what problem is most important.
Finally, validate the fears as reasonable given the circumstances surrounding the decision to change and ask them to reflect on other changes in life that started out with concern and turned into positive outcomes (getting married, having children, a new job, a new house, etc.). Pulling in a history of successful change will provide confidence to the current situation.
Progress in life is not easy, but working through change is possible, especially when working with experts in change such as the senior citizens of the nation.