What to Do When Your Aging Parents Retire Out of State

Two southeast Michigan experts offer tips to help seniors and their adult children make a smooth transition when aging parents retire out of state.

Senior man driving a golf cart in a tropic location

The appeal of a warmer climate and year-round sunshine is too much to resist for many senior citizens living in Michigan. But when seniors choose to retire out of state, they often leave behind adult children who make up a key part of their support system.

So how can adult children stay involved in an aging parent’s life during – and after – this big transition? It’s a key consideration, according to Shelly Hartley and Cindy Beard, the co-owners of Mindful Home Transitions, which is based in South Lyon and specializes in relocation guidance for seniors in southeast Michigan.

It’s an issue that comes up often since many seniors seek out warmer climates for retirement. “So many seniors move to Florida, they move to Arizona or Texas where it’s warmer,” Beard says. “They don’t want the Michigan winters.”

Sometimes, the move ends up being temporary since health issues or other problems can crop up causing seniors to want to be closer to family again.

“Four wall is four walls, but four walls with love is a different four walls,” she adds. “If you’re around people who love you and can come to see you and be there for you – family, grandchildren – it all makes it so much easier going into what’s coming.”

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But whether it’s for five years or a permanent move, making the transition can be difficult both emotionally and physically. Consider these tips.

1. Consider professional help

For starters, seniors or their adult children can seek out the assistance of a senior moving consultant who can help with managing all aspects of the move. Check the National Association of Senior Move Managers for a referral.

2. Seek communities with all levels of care

If your aging parent will be seeking out a senior community, look for one that offers multiple levels of care, Shelley Hartley says.

“It starts off with independent and then there’s enhanced and then assisted and then memory care,” she explains. “In the event they do need additional services such as a call button, laundry services, meal preparation, assistance with bathing and then down the road to memory care issues, if they choose a community that has all those different levels, then they don’t have to pick up again and move; they just transition.”

That move can be easier and more affordable than needing to find an entirely new community and moving all of your belongings, she notes.

“We find that a lot of our clients are realizing as of right now they’re independent … but they’re also looking a little bit down the road as they age,” Hartley says.

3. Prioritize social networking

As your parent prepares to retire out of state, help them identify social opportunities in their new community.

“Investigate and find out where they can still do the things that they enjoy,” like golf, bingo or a walking club. “Sometimes it’s helping them make those connections.”

4. Line up key resources

In addition to social opportunities for your aging parent, make sure the retirement area your parent chooses will have adequate, accessible health care and other necessary resources. This may include certain medical providers, senior transportation or senior centers.

“I think the key is the network of resources in the new location. They’re going to need more help (as they age), but they’re moving further away,” Hartley explains.

“They need to make sure that you have your network out there so they can reach out. Obviously you’re a phone call away, but sometimes there’s transportation (or other services) that they need.”

When you’re considering different areas, look into a resource guide specific to the city or county, such as the guide offered by Oakland County.

5. Minimize belongings

This part is tough, Hartley says, but sorting through things before making a move will save you a substantial amount in moving expenses, especially if you’ve been in the home for 20-plus years and have accumulated a lot in storage. By minimizing belongings in advance, adult children can help with this process.

“Take the time to not pack everything in the house. This would be the time to actually declutter,” Hartley adds. “It’s a fresh start. That gives you the opportunity to look at collections, childhood keepsakes … I think the first time they’re making that move, you call in all the family members and discuss the content of that home.”

Plus, if your parent decides to move back to Michigan eventually, the move will be easier and more affordable on the way back, too.

6. Recognize the emotions involved

Packing up personal belongings and moving across the country will certainly bring up many emotions for an aging parent – as well as the adult children. Recognize that this may be a challenging transition at first, and give your parent time and space to work through those emotions.

“It’s such an emotional time,” Beard emphasizes. “I can’t tell you just how heightened everybody’s emotions are. It’s hard on them and it’s hard on the family members.”

If the emotional aspect makes it too difficult for the adult children to take an active role in packing or moving their parent, this may be another reason to consider hiring professional help.

“It is a journey,” Beard says. “To have somebody like what we’re doing to come in and assist you through that kind of a move, it is so beneficial for everyone.”

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