Living options for widowed seniors
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Moving On: Relocating After a Senior Spouse's Death

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Date Published Thursday, December 3, 2020 Living options for widowed seniors - death of a spouse Author: Lucille Rosetti

A senior's longtime home can feel like a foreign place after the death of a spouse. In the immediate aftermath of a loss, many widows and widowers are eager to get out of a house that holds painful memories. Is moving a wise decision so soon after the death of a spouse, and if seniors do move, where should they go? If you're facing this difficult decision in your own family, these are a few things to consider.

Benefits of moving after death of spouse

Experts recommend avoiding big decisions in the year following a spouse's death, but while seniors should avoid major financial moves, there are benefits to relocating after a spouse passes. Remaining in a home that's full of painful memories can make it harder for seniors to process their grief. Grief is meant to be shared, but that’s hard to do for a senior who suddenly finds herself living alone. Moving gives seniors access to much-needed support from friends, family, and caregivers.

That support is especially important when you realize just how vulnerable a senior's health is following the death of a spouse. Not only are widowed seniors prone to the widowhood effect, but changes in cognitive health become apparent when a senior no longer has a spouse to compensate for deficits. If a senior is left to their own devices and becomes isolated and depressed, declines in mental and physical well-being are likely to accelerate.

Living options for widowed seniors

Deciding whether a senior should move or stay put is only one piece of the puzzle. Next, families are faced with the decision of finding the most supportive living environment for their senior loved one.

For many families, the first impulse is to invite a senior relative to move in with them. However, before making space in your home for a senior loved one, think carefully about whether it's a good long-term fit. If you move or expand your family and no longer have space for your senior loved one, it could cause unnecessary disruption and stress. That's also the case if your family member develops care needs that you're not able to accommodate at home. Additionally, ask yourself if sharing space is likely to strengthen or strain your relationship with a senior loved one. While multigenerational cohabiting is a good fit for some families, it's not right for everyone.

For seniors who have existing or developing long-term care needs, Alzheimer's or memory care living may be the best fit. That's the case for seniors with cognitive impairment who can't live safely at home without a caregiver. In memory care living, a senior can maintain a private apartment and take advantage of 24/7 support with meals, bathing, grooming, and health management. While most assisted living facilities charge by the month, some may require an up-front payment or deposit to secure a spot.

Independent seniors may be interested in downsizing to a home that's more manageable for a senior living alone. A downsized home can mean lower costs, less housekeeping, and a better location. Also, keep in mind that it's important to bring in someone to inspect the home, especially if the person is selling the home as-is.

It's not wise to rush into buying a new home. If your loved one wants to move, suggest renting until they're confident the new location is a good fit. You should also talk about what to do with their spouse's belongings. Some seniors feel the urge to get rid of things to escape their grief, but it’s better to store belongings than to make rash decisions they may regret later.

While moving is often beneficial for bereaved seniors, they shouldn't rush into irrevocable decisions like selling a home immediately after a spouse’s death. Grief clouds thinking, and the last thing a senior needs is to make a decision they can't take back. Whether you rent out the old home, have relatives move in, or maintain it vacant for a while, allow grief to settle before permanently parting with the family home.

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