The majority of older adults live in private residences, but as they age, many turn to other housing options. Are you in this situation? Are you planning to move to a retirement home or a healthcare facility in the near future?
Adjusting to a new home is not easy. Leaving your home, your memories and your habits is anxiety-provoking. Many fear having to rebuild everything elsewhere: create a new social network, develop a sense of belonging, maintain independence, find new activities. There is a reason why assisted living facilities or nursing homes offer a range of activities to their residents: leisure makes it possible to adapt to difficult life transitions, such as widowhood, retirement or moving and adapting to a new living environment.
Do you believe that leisure can be a promising solution to help you adapt to a new home?
What research tells us
A recent systematic review identified 24 studies examining the relationship between leisure and older adults' adjustment to a new home.(1) Although the studies considered only older adults living in nursing homes, it goes without saying that leisure can promote the well-being of everyone, regardless of the type of residence.
Indeed, structured leisure activities and the opportunity to learn new skills allow participation in social life and promote a sense of belonging. Studies show that leisure provides a sense of continuity and helps maintain your identity and independence. In addition, the results show that adaptation happens more quickly if you participate in activities regularly and are motivated. Thus, the positive experiences in your new residence will allow you to consider this new environment as a real home.
However, some physical, institutional and social features of your new home could hinder your participation in leisure activities, hence the importance of choosing the right type of housing according to your interests! For some people, for example, an environment where the rules are very rigid, where there are no private spaces to receive friends and where it is impossible to cook as you please may not allow you to flourish and to feel at home, which can interfere with your adjustment.
Plan your move carefully
Volunteering and leisure activities allow you to stay active, socialize, stimulate a sense of belonging and usefulness. Determine what is important to you (or your loved ones) and take the time to learn about the different housing models to find the one that meets your health and social needs: retirement communities, cohabitation, adapted housing, long-term care facilities, etc.
Depending on your needs and preferences, you may want to get involved in the social committee and organize welcoming activities for new residents, participate in community meals to learn about other cultures, contribute to the community garden or literary circle, or attend educational workshops on topics that affect many residents like you, such as widowhood, retirement, diet, exercise and fall prevention.
If you have cognitive or physical limitations, seek an environment that supports and facilitates your participation in various leisure activities. Don't hesitate to get involved!