The trauma of transition

The trauma of transition

Moving can be traumatic at the best of times, but never more so than for older people who may have spent decades of their lives living in the same house; indeed, even the idea of making a move – of knowing even where to begin with the amount of stuff that will have been collected over a lifetime – can result in many being utterly paralyzed and putting off even thinking about it until it reaches the point that moving becomes even more of a problem.

Many aging adults will put off the inevitable for the simple reason that relocation is actually a lot more than just moving; leaving a house in which they may have raised their children and where numerous memories will have been captured is an almost physically tangible acknowledgment of the end of an era.  Many older adults also associate having to move with losing control over their own lives, with one of the largest obstacles being the stigma often attached to moving to independent and assisted living facilities.  To end this stigma and change this way of thinking, experts say that downsizing should be approached in a different way – not as a negative experience but as a positive method of ridding yourself of the unnecessary belongings that are keeping you trapped and thus actually increasing your level of independence.  Downsizing can actually free people up both physically and emotionally, and allow them to gain more years of energy, independence and life.

Still, many older adults do not see it this way and the combination of the move and the loss of so many belongings makes them feel that they have reached a crossroads in their lives, and not a happy one at that.  Not for nothing is moving regarded as one of the most stressful experiences in life and this can be doubly so for older adults, with the emotional toll only adding to the physical stress involved in making such a dramatic move.  There is a surprising emotional toll in being forced to say goodbye just to physical objects, and the amount of stuff that can be accumulated in a lifetime can make it a truly overwhelming idea to have to sort through it.

The good news is that many moving companies are now stepping up to the plate to help by becoming moving managers.  They can plan and conduct moves and can reduce the stress of moving by a startling amount, packing things up at one end and unpacking them at the other so that the people involved are not faced with such a traumatic and exhausting task both before and after their relocation.  Moving managers can also help with sorting through all that excess junk and remove much of the stress from the process.  The baby boomers generation in particular is much more comfortable with the concept of outsourcing than its predecessors, and is only too happy to allow someone else to take on the burden.

Jon Huser