Adjusting to Life in an Older Adult Community

There was a lot of positive reaction to our article of a couple of weeks ago that spoke about the six questions you should ask when considering a move to an older adult community. So we thought we would take a further look at adjusting to living in your new community.

Most of us would prefer to stay in our homes as we age for as long as possible, but this can become an issue when we reach a point where our needs outgrow our home environment.

A transition to a supportive community is complex, and to be successful, older adults and their families go through a series of adjustments. The most obvious adjustment is the physical relocation to a new home. This includes ending some established habits and adopting new routines, which can appear to be overwhelming.

There is no question that moving from the family home requires a period of adjustment. “I can’t say enough about the staff; they’re the most caring, efficient, pleasant, and helpful people. I was so familiar with my community all my life so moving here was an adjustment. The staff is what helped me make the adjustment,” said one resident of our Fish Creek community.


Relocating is often described as one of the most difficult decisions faced by older adults and their families. In 1989, Virginia Brooke, then an assistant professor in Spokane, Washington, identified four phases of adjustment that older adults typically go through during a move.

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The transition to a new community has many positive outcomes. Research suggests that after a transition, people often feel more secure and less lonely than they did before the move. In addition, feeling a sense of relief is common. Think about all of the work that goes into maintaining a house. No longer having to worry about yard work, home maintenance or cooking can be very freeing. Many older adults will discover new opportunities to develop hobbies or skills and form new bonds with others in the community, which results in an enhanced quality of life.

When the decision is a result of personal choice instead of a consensus of family members and health professionals, older adults will adjust better to their new home.

Joan Patterson working on a quilting project

Joan Patterson working on a quilting project

“I found it easy to make the decision to move,” said Fish Creek resident Joan Patterson. “I fell at home and broke my shoulder and I realized that I should move into a community where I could get help right away should something like that happen again. My transition was very smooth because I made the decision on my terms rather than someone else’s.”


How to make the transition easier

Involvement in the decision to move is one of the most important aspects that can either help or hurt the adjustment. Older adults who are included in the decision-making process feel empowered, respected and view the move as more desirable. However, when older adults have little or no input in the decision they tend to feel hurt, angry, misled or depressed.

United is committed to supporting resident adjustment to our communities. We strive to understand resident needs and work with them and their families to help everyone adjust positively.

Quick tips for families

Make sure you visit the new community, sometimes more than once. This will help develop relationships and become acquainted with the physical space and programs and services available.

Before the move:

  • Consider counselling or a more informal family discussion, since older adults and their family members need to feel safe expressing their feelings about moving

After the move:

  • Family members can help a parent settle in by recognizing the emotional impact of the move and respond with compassion and patience
  • Offer them choices in how their new suite is decorated, the meal choices they have, and developing routines around their lifestyle will enhance the feeling of control
  • Display documents or items of significance in their new home and encourage the continuation of previously enjoyed activities.
  • Build new bonds with staff and other residents. Our staff – and other residents – will introduce themselves to new residents and make them feel comfortable.

Transitioning from your home to another community can be very difficult, and it can take time to finally feel settled. However, understanding what the move means and planning ahead can help everyone make a successful adjustment to a new home.

Photos and video by Sherana Productions.

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.

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