As the owner of a senior move management company, I have the opportunity to work with a person when they go through what will likely be the most difficult transition they’ll face in their lifetime. In fact, the transition into senior communities is medically identified as Relocation Stress Syndrome. I have seen healthy clients require hospital visits, experience cognitive impairment and it goes without saying visible stress.
As a society, we try and gloss over or pretend we don’t know what the weight of this transition means. But, I’m going to write this as life actually occurs. We do pass on and our belongings represent the life we’ve lead, the dreams we’ve had and our desire to be remembered.
We need to address the fears and concerns of the person moving. We all need to be heard and sometimes talking about it, really does help everyone.
For “The Greatest Generation” seniors, there is even more tied to to letting go of their belongings because their generation lived in different times. They grew up in a time of scarcity and furniture was built to last. I remember moving a couple who’d been together 60+ years and the couch they brought to their senior community had been a wedding gift.
For later generations, we have IKEA and other discount furniture stores. We dispose of couches every couple of years because they don’t cost as much and aren’t as durable. Not to mention we don’t share the experience of having had to ration.
Another difficulty is the realization that things treasured and collected, aren’t wanted. As an only grandchild, I declined my grandmother’s wedding china. I loved my grandmother dearly and took a favorite lamp but I simply didn’t have use or space for it but it didn’t mean I didn’t love or wouldn’t remember her.
Adding on another layer, when adult children get involved in the process, often times feelings get hurt and the person being moved resents being “parented” by adult children. When a professional comes in and uses a floorplan to show a senior they won’t be able to fit something, it seems to carry more weight. Most importantly though, working with a third party, like a senior move manager, allows the parent/child relationship to remain in tact while they support one another through the transition. (This is often a tough transition for both the parent and the adult children.)
My own transition as a divorcing woman gave me an empathy for our clients. I threw away the beautiful collage I made as a wedding gift for my ex and the sign that hung on the construction site of our first home. They represented things I’d envisioned for my life. Throwing those things away was admitting that those dreams would not be realized and that this part of my life was over.
Every ending has a beginning and this is the impetus behind our company name Silver Linings Transitions. In all situations adjusting our attitude and looking at something from a different perspective really does make all the difference.
By the way, the photos at the top...one is a senior community and one is a resort ;)
Jami Shapiro is President of Silver Linings Transitions. As a cancer survivor, she embraces aging and the challenges it presents.