Senior Citizens: Their Fears, Hopes and Questions about Housing Options
Senior Citizens: Their Fears, Hopes and Questions about Housing Options
There comes a time in the lives of many seniors when staying in their current home is no longer a safe or wise choice. It may be because the stairs have become more difficult or impossible to negotiate. It might be that the general upkeep of the house has become overwhelming. Or it may simply be because they’re experiencing declining health. Sadly, too many seniors continue to live in homes which do not meet their physical and/or mental needs. The reasons turn out to be a number of seniors’ fears of selling homes.
Senior Fears of Selling Homes
Studies show that many seniors who were still in their homes. The majority of the respondents had attended a “moving seminar.” The seminars provide information regarding affordability of senior housing, downsizing and the process of selling their home and moving. Most of the seniors were ages 72-83 years old.
Seven hundred surveys were distributed. Statistically, I expected to get back 1%, or seven. However, I received about 10% — 70! The questions were open ended (subjective) with no choice of answers. The seniors were free to answer any way they chose. This was not a scientific study, but simply an attempt at compiling the beliefs of seniors faced with the decision whether or not to sell their home.
Following are the compiled results, including respondents’ comments:
1. What are the top three reasons that you are considering a move?
42% — Maintenance
34% — Health Issues
10% — Downsizing
6% — Loneliness
6% — Transportation
6% — Age
4% — Finances
2. What are the top three fears that are keeping you from making a move?
32% — Fear of Change
26% — Fear of Downsizing
24% — Emotional Fears
8% — Financial Concerns
4% — Loss of Independence
3. How many years have you been in your present home?
(Note that 68% of respondents have been in their current homes more than 30 years)
4. What do you find most confusing about current housing options?
Respondents all mentioned cost or pricing issues. Their comments included:
5. What are the three most positive changes you see in the future?
(Note that, although the question was regarding positive changes, 32% of respondents answered in the negative or could not think of any positives.)
6. What are your three biggest fears about the future?
44% — Health
26% — Finances
Loneliness (small percentage of respondents)
Government (small percentage of respondents)
7. What have you heard most from friends and relatives who have made the move to senior housing?
76% — Satisfied
12% — Not Satisfied
12% — Not Sure or No Opinion
After reading the responses, I came to some important conclusions. Fear was holding many of the seniors back from making a move that they could or should make. Of course, we are all “victims” of comfort and stability. We’ll stay in situations because we feel comfortable and safe, even if we are unhappy! How many people stay in bad marriages, or jobs to the detriment of our happiness and well being? We do so in many cases because that’s what we know. It reminded me of the story…
There once was a fox and a scorpion. The scorpion needed to get across a pond and asked the fox for a ride on his nose. The fox agreed, having known the scorpion to be honest and kind. The scorpion got onto the nose of the fox. Half way across, in the middle and deepest part of the pond, the scorpion reared up and stung the fox in the nose! The fox was startled and asked, “Why did you sting me in the nose? Now I will drown and we will both die!” The scorpion looked at the fox and said, “I stung you because that’s what scorpions do.”
The moral of the story is that, like the scorpion, people do what they do because they do what they do. It may not be healthy, but the comfort and security of a known condition is better than the unknown (many times healthier) changes we should make for our well being.
My senior respondents stated overwhelmingly that maintenance of their homes and deteriorating health were reason enough to move. Their homes were too large in many cases, but emotional issues were overriding the logical part of their brain. Most have been in their homes over 30 years. Much has been accumulated. There is total confusion as to the choices available and costs for senior housing. Many are pessimistic about the future. There seems to be a feeling that things will get worse before they get better. However, some feel that medical advances, longevity of life and better politicians will make for a better tomorrow. Fears about health in the future and dwindling finances weighed heavily on my respondents.
The responses to the question about what they heard from friends and relatives who have already moved were not surprising. The overwhelming majority stated that satisfaction and happiness were the result of the move. The people they believed and relied on for honest information were happy, which leaves an incongruity.
People they trusted had told the respondents that a move to senior housing was a positive, healthy answer to their current housing problems … problems they had had in common. But in many cases, the familiarity of a bad situation was more attractive than changing to a seemingly better unknown.
Seniors whose housing accommodations are not meeting their health or lifestyle needs should have their fears acknowledged and dealt with in an forthright manner. However, it is time to look at the facts and encourage them to overcome their fear of the unknown. They should be helped to take an honest look at their life and decide if they want to leave it to chance or design their remaining years to meet their needs for fun, enjoyment and security.
A senior, or a person who cares for one, can begin this road to freedom by gathering information through the many professionals who are ready and willing to help. There are companies to prepare a home for sale, to help sell and pack personal property and to assist with arranging finances. Professionals will assess each situation and offer the best options for health and financial needs. In short, let others who have been there before serve as guides and make the move if it is the right thing to do.
The following are professional services and providers that seniors can use to help them change their lifestyle if a change is needed:
Most importantly, it’s a time for seniors to look deep inside themselves and ask if their current lifestyle is the dream they worked towards for their entire life. Is this the way to spend the rest of one’s life? If it is the right style for a given situation, then stay and enjoy the home for years to come. Unfortunately we never know how long we will live or how our good health will last. So think clearly and honestly.
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