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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Bell

The Need to Choose

One of the things that I recognized intuitively when I launched Moving Seniors with a Smile Inc. was older adults’ need for autonomy. Granted,  this looks a little different when you are 70 than it does when you are 80 and may evolve some more when you are 90 years young but the need for control over one’s life is intrinsic to all of us.

People of all ages want to feel that we are in control of our own lives.  Feeling powerless to address the myriad changes that occur in our bodies as we age can be emotionally crippling.  Coping with the multiple losses that occur when we retire, lose loved ones and become less powerful in the eyes of our “youth-focused” culture, well let’s face it – it can be demoralizing.

People admittedly react differently to these personal changes and losses.  Some quietly accept and defer to family members.  Sons and daughters (and sons and daughters by marriage) may feel much more certain of, not only their own perspectives, but also more certain of what is “right” for Mom and/or Dad.  Of course this gets more complex when siblings and in-laws see the world from different vantage points and there is an inability to agree on just what the best course of action may be.

Some older adults seek comfort by controlling what they see as still being controllable and their worlds tend to become smaller and more structured.  These older adults can cling to #familiar #routines like a life raft and the mere thought of a shift in schedule can elicit strong feelings of #


Still others dig in, relying heavily on denial.  They may sometimes vow that “the only way that they are leaving their home is in a box”.  Nothing will change and, of course, the unexpected will only happen to others and won’t ever happen to them … “Fight or flight” responses seem deeply embedded in the DNA of these individuals and while they too are experiencing anxiety, their responses manifest in a decidedly different way.

The last folks that I will include are those who believe that they are much better off to take a preemptive strikeThey are the game changers – those who, by their own volition, take the steps necessary to move from a house to a condo or from a condo to a #retirement residence because they know that this is the best way to ensure that they will get to make all of their own decisions. This sense of control over their life helps to keep them moving forward through their transition, accepting the necessary changes with foresight and resilience. 

If any of these scenarios seem familiar in your family, I have successfully worked with all of these older adults.  While they may all present differently, each of these individuals have the underlying desire to be in control of their own life and to decide, to the best of their abilities, what will work best for them.

Not surprisingly, being able to shape what, how and when change will happen, helps to provide my clients with a sense of certainty around their move.  This translates into feelings of general well-being and the optimism that comes with knowing that they have access to all the resources needed to successfully manage all the aspects of their transition.

Sometimes, we are able to provide the needed knowledge and expertise and at other times we assume the leadership of the tasks that are more physically daunting.  Sometimes we ensure that family relationships are strengthened rather than frayed throughout the process.  At all times we provide our clients with active listening, #objectivity, and the needed #encouragement that they are indeed making excellent choices.  This way the move stays on schedule, everyone’s worries are reduced and Mom and/or Dad maintain their sense of #autonomy, at any age, though any #transition.

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