The Ultimate Guide to Moving
into a Retirement Community

See also: Planning For Retirement

There’s a point in your life where you have to assess where you live. Your circumstances have changed, and you need more support and fewer chores.

Maybe your home is simply too big, and you want to downsize. Perhaps doing the garden has become unmanageable. Or maybe your family and friends have moved on, and your neighborhood doesn’t offer the support and comfort it used to. Perhaps your, or your partner’s needs, have become too much to handle at home.

There is a wide range of retirement home options, and levels of aged care and support. There are standalone low-maintenance homes with kitchens and a small garden in a community of like-minded retirees, through to rooms similar to a hotel, which are fully maintained, with full time nurse and staff support for those who need high levels of care.

Once you’ve decided, there’s a certain amount of grief, and often stress in arranging everything. But there are some things you can do to make this a lot easier on yourself.

1. Try a Short, Trial, or Respite Stay

There is a huge variety of retirement village options. Some facilities offer stays, where you can visit and experience the facilities for a short period of time. Meet the staff, make friends, try the food on offer—is this the place for you? Explore what’s available on-site, chat to other residents and see if the community is happy and supportive.

This can help to alleviate any fears and make the eventual move seamless. Instead of worrying about how you’ll find friends, you’ll be excited about the fitness class or on-site library.

2. Understand the Admission Process

This is a big step, financially, and mentally. There’s a lot to think about and plan. If you have someone to help attend visits and meetings, this could be helpful. If not, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the admission process. Will the staff be able to help you with the move? What paperwork is needed? How are the bills paid and finances managed?

3. Plan the Move

Go to your new intended home and measure up the space and draw a detailed floor plan. For many, this will be a downsize and you’ll need to give away or sell some furniture. This can make the packing and planning process easier because you have limited options; the large sideboard which simply won’t fit, or it is a good excuse to get rid of that battle-scarred coffee table.

4. Plan for Grief

There will be sadness in leaving your old home, parting with possessions, farewelling the familiar. Before you start packing, take time to record a video of your home. Starting at the street, walk through the garden, opening the door. Go through each room, opening each closet. You may never watch the video, but it’s there if you do. You are allowed to take that tatty favorite chair with you, if you want to replace it, you can do so later.

When packing (and start packing early because it’s a big job and can be very emotionally taxing), take photos of everything you can’t take. You simply cannot have everything go with you, you will need to sell or give away a lot of things. Some things can also be kept but in a different way; maybe keeping part of a favorite lace tablecloth and using it as a background behind a family photograph on the wall.

5. Plan Thoroughly

The move will take time, you’ll get decision fatigue, and you may find that people helping you to pack adds to the sadness. So, leave plenty of time to sort through everything and pack.

One to Two Years Before Your Move

  • Finalize the community choice. Pay the deposit and secure your new home. Some facilities have a wait time of months to years, so take this into account when looking for your new home.

  • Can you take your pet with you? If not, what happens to them?

Two to Six Months Before Your Move

  • Once a suite/ home becomes available, choose a moving date, create the floor plan, and ensure you understand everything about any moving processes.

  • Two months out, at least, start packing

  • Call your insurance company and talk about any policy changes needed

  • Plan for a moving company; the retirement village may have a preferred mover. Get quotes from at least three companies. Book early so there’s no stress.

  • Make choices about your big furniture items, what will you take with you?

  • Video your home before you start removing furniture and other items

One Month Before the Move

  • Declutter your home. Sort items into piles: keep, donate, throw away

  • Remove those big items of furniture you won’t need; it gives a sense of progress and also you can tell if you’ll be able to manage without them

  • Digitize everything you can, take photos of items you won’t be keeping

  • Sort out finances for everything

  • Arrange packing boxes and wrap. Remember to label all the boxes clearly with their intended new location/ contents.

One Week Before Moving

  • Check with moving company that everything is still planned

  • You should be mostly packed. Take everything to goodwill, make sure everything you’re giving to friends and family is picked up, and arrange removal of all trash

  • Confirm any moving arrangements with your retirement residence

The Day of the Move

  • Expect big feelings today. Excitement, nervousness, sadness. For those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, there will be a lot of confusion and anxiety and they may need someone there to help manage them that day.

  • Last minute packing done, be on hand to help movers with any questions

Say goodbye to your old home, and welcome to your new home. Most seniors say that they wish they had moved sooner; life is easier, they have like-minded people close by, and a sense of security and support. You’re not alone; your community just grew.