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Decisions in the Older Years: Thinking About Relocating

It's common to think about relocating your living situation as you age. Learn about the dilemma, the plan, and the outcome of relocating.

Decisions in the Older Years: Thinking About Relocating

You are about to meet Betty, a 67-year-old widow living alone in a mid-western city where she has become an integral part of her community over the past 44 years. Her one surviving daughter—the only close relative she has—lives in Hawaii. The purpose of Betty's story is twofold:

  1. It represents a dilemma many women will increasingly be facing.
  2. The methodology she uses to resolve this dilemma is instructive and sound.

Experts tell us that how one copes with a crises—moving out of a home, facing financial reversals, the losing a spouse, or fighting illness—depends upon the meaning we give the circumstances. Resilient people look for and find a positive meaning then go on with their lives. Despairing people feel victimized and suffer from hopelessness and depression in the face of a crisis.

The Dilemma

Betty, an independent, resourceful, productive, and interesting woman, retired two years ago from a career in social services. She continues to use her skills to run a weekly support group for pregnant women confined to bed rest and participate in a school reading program. Recently, she began to contemplate moving to Hawaii to begin a new life near her married daughter and primary-school-age granddaughter. "The whole idea scares the hell out of me," Betty admits.

Still there are plenty of reasons for Betty to seriously consider the move: Her daughter, Toby, wants her to be closer; many of her friends (who have been an integral part of her life) now live six months of the year elsewhere, are deceased, or have moved to be closer to their children; she can no longer use work as an excuse; she misses her family; she wants to be a larger part of Cheryl's (her granddaughter) life; and, the idea of moving with a well-thought-out plan is more appealing to Betty than being forced into a sudden move prompted by a health emergency.

The Plan

"Finally I told Toby I would think about how I could do what she was asking of me," Betty said. "I decided to try it for one month in my own apartment. Of course I chose the shortest month, February. It is also the coldest and nastiest month in the Midwest."

During the course of that month Betty has a specific agenda. She wants to see if she could learn the community, find her way around, and meet people with whom she had the potential to become friends. To accomplish this she planned to make contact with local professional social work organizations, attend religious events, and see where she fit in.

Betty has also found that by being open and discussing her feelings with friends about the prospect of a move, she has been able to gain insight, perspective, and support.

The Outcome

"There is only one person who can make this move a success," Betty says. "That's me. I will only make this move if I have a good feel for my own independence. There is an element of challenge and adventure to it."

Although Betty puts the responsibility for a successful move on herself, the quality of her mother-daughter relationship surely will help. "Toby and I are getting closer and closer and closer all the time," Betty said. "Our relationship is changing all the time and we are both changing all the time. It is easier to talk to her now than when she was 15, 17, or 19. She is diplomatic, understanding, and upfront. I don't know if there is anything she wouldn't ask me. I would ask her anything—not about her husband and their relationship—about her feelings."

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