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Options for Senior Moves

When aging parents experience health or mobility changes, it doesn't take long before family discussions turn to the topic of staying at home or looking for alternative living arrangements.

Parents may want to retain "independence". Adult children may worry about parents' isolation, safety, or the amount of support they are able to offer.

These are seldom easy discussions. Strong emotions can bring out the worst in families that have poor communication skills and less-than-ideal relationships. Even in families who get along well, discussing such a major life change can be tough to handle.

What is often overlooked are the assumptions we make, based on the limited knowledge that both elders and adult children may bring to these conversations. 

"You're not putting me in a nursing home!"

"I wish people knew more about the wide range of living options out there," says Marilyn Moldowan, a Calgary realtor with 20 years specific experience in helping seniors find their next home. She encounters many people who believe - incorrectly - that it's a direct, non-stop trip between the family home and an institutional setting.  "We can start de-mystifying the perception of what's out there, so people aren't making knee-jerk decisions out of fear," she says.

One example Moldowan gives is condominium ownership. Condos are often equated only with high-rise apartment living. In fact, there are age-restricted condo projects of many types, specifically built for mature buyers. They include no-maintenance options such as villa-style homes, with single attached or detached houses and indoor and outdoor common areas.

When the concerns are more about health care than home maintenance, options still abound.

Initially, extra care and support can be brought into the family home and into other independent retirement living situations. "Assisted living" options typically provide an even higher level of care, including meal preparation, medication management, and personal care.

"Many people balk at the monthly cost of these options," says Moldowan, "but when I ask them to look at their current total living costs - including food, utilities, repairs and taxes - it starts to look more reasonable. Plus, someone else is doing the work behind the scenes. That frees up the family to be family again - and allows the senior more time and energy for social and leisure opportunities." 

"Ninety- to ninety-five per cent of the senior moves I'm involved in are due to a health crisis," says Moldowan. That's why it's always a good idea to plan ahead.

The main thing is to realize that options exist. These can include moving to a smaller, newer home (i.e., fewer repairs, smaller yard). It can mean renting in a retirement residence or exploring the many condo ownership options designed for the older demographic. And it means being aware of housing that offers greater support when it's needed in the future.

Independent living can truly take many forms. 

Related Reading: 

Selected Newsletters
Home Care For Seniors
Help Aging Parents Relocate
Planning a Move From A Distance

Check out the Housing Tab in the ElderWise Library for our Staying At Home Checklist and other resources.

Vol. 5, No. 9, � ElderWise Publishing 2009.
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.


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