For many Baby Boomers looking to sell their homes and make a move in retirement, finding Millennials willing and able to buy their houses might turn out to be a serious hurdle. But that’s not the only challenge they will face when they relocate in retirement.
Moving is never easy, but it is a unique experience for older adults, who have built a life in their homes, amassed an imposing quantity of stuff, and may be uncertain about where they’re going next.
The Marriage, The Mortgage, The Memories
There’s a difference between a house and home. Home is not really a place in itself. Home is a relationship between a person and a place. “Universally, homes function for people in so many important ways, both physical and psychological, that they become symbols that involve all aspects of our lives,” writes aging anthropologist Jacquelyn Beth Frank.
All of us live in many homes throughout our lives, but for many of us, the home of greatest significance is the one in which we spend our midlives, cultivating marriages, paying off mortgages, accumulating memories, raising children, progressing in our careers, and amassing possessions. Many, if not most, older adults have lived in the same residence for decades.
After so much time spent in the same place, our memories are transferred onto the objects and environment around us. The architecture of our homes becomes part of the architecture of our minds. If we find ourselves restless at night, we can put ourselves to sleep just by performing a slow mental survey of every room in the house (try it, if you’re ever feeling insomniac).
For those in later older age, in their 80s and 90s, a sudden unexpected move out of a long-lived residence can have a devastating effect on mental and physical health. Those of us with stronger constitutions might not crumble to dust, but…