When I tell people what I do for a living I tend to get a lot of similar reactions. People will say: “Oh that must be so hard. Older people want to keep everything”. Or they may say: “My Mom (and/or Dad) won’t budge. They just shut down whenever we bring up the subject of their ever leaving their house.” Sometimes I will hear: “That must be depressing. Older people get so set in their ways.”
My experience with my older clients has actually been quite different.
During a recent consultation I chatted with an older adult who is planning to move from her tony, spacious mid-town condo to a nearby retirement suite. She shared that she can enjoy expertly prepared meals when she moves and that she will be able to easily and often indulge in her favourite past time of bridge.
When I explained how I work with clients, helping them to decide what to take, what to sell, what to give away and what to do with what’s left over, she just laughed. This soon-to-be client declared that she didn’t want to keep any of it! As she put it, “I have been looking at all of this stuff for sixty years. Why would I want to keep looking at it?”
In fairness, this client’s approach is not the norm but it reminds all of us to not fall into the trap of buying into the many myths about how “older people” think and react. To be honest, I have seen adult sons and daughters of clients who are more resistant to their parent(s) parting with things than the senior who may not be nearly as attached to their belongings as people would like to believe.
My own observations are that family histories can prevent genuine, active listening and that well intended sons and daughters’ expectations can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.
In some families each member can become more and more firmly entrenched in their roles and positions and as time goes on, any potential for change can get hampered by less than ideal family dynamics.
Many of my older clients are in their 80’s. They may be on their own or have children who are getting up in age themselves and who are busy with careers and children of their own. They often don’t live nearby and while they want to help, they have difficulty with the time that it takes to sensitively help Mom and Dad to make good decisions.
The benefits of engaging the services of a skilled and objective senior move manager are two-fold. They know that the project will stay on schedule and that Mom or Dad will actually get to choose what they genuinely want to take with them when they move. Family members sometimes get into struggles as each attempt to assert opinions that reflect their own quite different tastes and values.
One of the things that make me smile is the ability to adapt that I often see in my older clients. They may be resistant initially to the thought of change but, when they have the opportunity to make real choices, they will jump on the bandwagon and become enthusiastic leads in their own transition.
In fairness, think of the changes that this generation has seen over their lifetime. This isn’t the first challenging set of circumstances that they have encountered and it probably won’t be their last. I am every bit as much a skilled coach as I am a project manager and creating positive and empowered expectations goes a long way toward ensuring that my older clients enjoy successful transitions.
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