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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Bell

Can You Pivot?

Life happens, stuff happens and we adjust. How well we adjust can be affected by a number of factors. How much confidence do we have? Has some of that confidence eroded because stuff di happen? How strong is our support system? Do we believe that we have, or can have, control in our situation? At the end of the day how well can we pivot?

I work with a number of clients who are adjusting to changed circumstances. Some sadly lost a spouse, partner or parent. Some are going through declining health and mobility and some were dealt what I call a whammy: an unexpected diagnosis or fall or mental health crisis. Life happens. Back, hip and knee problems, COPD, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s, tumours, cancerous and non-cancerous can throw a wrench in our best laid plans. One of my friends and industry partners recently went through a very tricky surgery recently for a non-cancerous tumour on his brain stem. We don’t get to choose what happens to us or to our loved ones but we can make some choices that impact how we deal with it.

One thing we can do at any age and stage is to decide not to be a victim. We can choose to get informed and to take the next right step. We aren’t always able to see the entire process or even the final destination when we take that first right step but it starts us on a path that hopefully gets us going in the right direction. If we do nothing we are simply waiting for the next whammy to come along.

The choices that we have today may well not be the options that were available five, ten or twenty years ago. The world has changed, we have changed and our needs as we age are ever changing. Explore what is out there. I was at an event this week and chatted with one the folks from a retirement residence. We have both been in the industry about the same length of time – she for eight years and me for seven and we have both seen a lot of changes in that time frame. It used to be that if you were paying the $5, $6 or $7,000. a month for a retirement residence suite, you could get one without a wait. That has changed. Now if you want a more spacious suite or a particular view you might be waiting well over a year for one to become available in the residence of your choice.

I assisted two client families recently and the older adults in both adamantly refused to even consider making a move. When declining health made it impossible for each of them to remain in their homes, they felt obliged to take retirement residence suites in facilities that weren’t previously on their radar. In fairness they weren’t horrible places but, had these folks been a little more proactive, they could have moved to nicer places closer to family and friends. Instead they waited until a crisis that forced their hands. Some seniors’ complexes with more affordable apartments have significantly longer wait times. Two to three years waits are not unusual.

Sure people often want to stay in their homes but there is no one right answer for everyone. Many of my clients choose the retirement residence or seniors’ apartment option because of the social opportunities that they offer. It can get lonely rambling around in a house or a condo on your own and even with personal support workers helping out, loneliness can be a huge factor behind older adults’ decisions to move.

I have seen the most successful transitions from those who are willing to pivot – to adjust course as things change. Those who are interested in learning and willing to adapt are the super seniors that we all want to be, the ones who remain interested - and interesting as they age.

What about all the things that we have collected throughout our lives? It’s human nature to want to hold on to the items that remind us of happy times in our lives. If our clients have collected items in the past, then helping them to choose the best of the best of them can make them feel at home right away in their new surroundings. Sometimes knowing that the remainder will be used and appreciated by others makes the rightsizing easier to take.

One client had kept her mother’s coffee percolator for fifteen years although she never used it. It is the memories of the people that make us smile – not every last thing that we inherited from them or every one of the gifts that they gave us. Taking photos of favourite items keep those positive memories easily accessible.

The wise folks among us are the ones who are comfortable with the pivot. Change is constant but we can shape our surroundings accordingly and we can keep smiling!

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