Having the downsizing conversation is never easy for anyone involved. For both children and parents, it’s one more sign that the parents are aging, which is difficult to accept. One way to make it easier is to talk about it before the move becomes necessary. Ask your parents if they have thought about where they would go or what type of place they would like to live in next. Would it be a one-story condo near the water? Or a manageable apartment closer to you or one of your siblings? Laying this groundwork ahead of time gives everyone a chance to consider the options available before they have to become a reality.
Another way to make the talk go better is to be prepared. If you have siblings, ask them if they think it’s time. If not, really listen to their reasoning and see whether it changes your mind or not. If all of you aren’t on the same page, it may be best to wait and approach the subject later. Having one or more family members not on board before you even talk to your parent is not a good start.
Not only may you potentially be trying to convince your siblings and parents this is the right thing to do, you may be trying to convince yourself as well. People often feel guilty about bringing up the subject, even though they believe it will be better for their parents’ well-being. It also makes them face the fact that their parents are getting older and may soon be the ones needing help instead of the other way around. Take some time to deal with your own feelings so that you are ready to help your parent with theirs when you talk to them.
While you shouldn’t try to decide exactly where your parent should live before talking to them, you should think about some of the options that make the most sense to you. Do some research on several possibilities and even visit them if possible to make sure you still think they would be a good fit. There are so many choices when it comes to senior living nowadays that you’ll want to know what’s available and what they have to offer.
When you decide to talk with your parent, make sure you are completely vested in the conversation. Block out some time, go to your parents’ house, leave the kids at home, and focus entirely on the discussion. According to an article on caring.com,
“One of the greatest challenges people in midlife face in their dealings with the elderly is to slow down and find the time to be fully present. It's a mistake to discuss important issues on the fly, when you're rushed and preoccupied. If you need to talk about something crucial with your parents, make a conscious effort to put your personal agenda aside -- along with your cell phone.”
Once you have given your full attention to the conversation, listen carefully to their responses. Remember that you are still the child and they are the parent. Don’t tell them what you think they have to do, talk about the options you have researched and answer their questions as best as you can. Talk about the benefits of a new place – if it’s smaller it’ll be easier to clean and maintain; in a condo there are fewer utility bills to worry about paying; in a 55-and-older community everyone is around the same age, making socializing easier; they provide transportation to the grocery store, doctor, and other outings so driving isn’t an issue. Offer to go see a few different places together, but respect your parents’ wishes if they don’t want to yet.
Being respectful of your parent’s feelings and offering to work together with them to find the right solution is a better approach than trying to take charge. Through open communication, you may both discover they’ve been wanting to move closer to you, or the upkeep of the current home is a burden, or staying in the place where a spouse or several neighbors no longer live is actually depressing. Then it’s time to take the next step. However, if that isn’t the case, don’t continue to push the subject until it becomes an argument. Allow some time for everyone to think it over and try again later to work together toward the right solution.