Trying to talk your parents into a retirement home?

Write them a letter with love.

By: Louise Szabo, originally published on

How many times have you brought up the subject of your parents moving into a retirement residence only to have them turn a deaf ear? They do not want to hear it or even discuss it. They often think that retirement homes are no different from long-term facilities and that these places are where people go to die. They are so wrong. Some retirement homes are more like moving into a swank hotel with all the comforts of home.

Still, trying to convince them will leave you feeling frustrated and guilty. How dare we ask, plead, beg or bribe them to leave their spacious home and move into a cubby hole?

As I watched my parents' health slowly deteriorate and their quality of life diminish I knew that they were ready to move. They, on the other hand, found it easy to ignore the signs.

It is difficult to talk to parents about being old and pointing out to them that they need more help in their daily life. It forces them to face their inadequacies. Most of us look up to our parents and through most of our life we expect them to give us their advice and wisdom. When the roles reverse we take on the parenting role. How difficult it must be for them to accept this new reality and face their frailty. It is no wonder that they resist us.

After two long years of sometimes argumentative discussions, I decided, in desperation, that the only way I could make them understand my thoughts and feelings about why I wanted them to move into a safer environment was to write them a letter. Since both of them were hard of hearing and usually refused to wear their hearing aid, my words written in bold large letters could not be ignored. It also meant that my message could hopefully be read over and over again.

Words on paper can be very powerful. If you're thinking of doing the same, here are some tips to get you going:

Outline your concerns

It was a difficult letter to write. I had often said to them, 'Life at home is getting dangerous.' But it was so easy for them to forget past mistakes. Writing down in black and white reminders of when Mom burned the pot and the stove element and refused to get both replaced in case it happened again was not one of the most comfortable moments in my writing. Nor was chastising them for the many times I would go to their place and struggle to re-bag the soggy garbage in the kitchen and cart the mess into the outside bin in the garage. Mentioning that after only two weeks on the job Mom had fired the caregiver I had hired made me feel angry. As for Dad, I reprimanded him for taking his daily dose of medication all at once. The scolding part of the letter was kept short, leaving much out, as I did not want to hurt them to the point that they would not read to the end.

Acknowledge their feelings and concerns

I also had to acknowledge their pain and their fear. Leaving this house, their home for over fifty years would be extremely difficult for all of us. Even to think about it made me feel sad. After all, this was my childhood home and ever since they had moved here the whole family, aunts, uncles and cousins, had come together to celebrate almost every holiday. More than a house, it was a neighbourhood of friends and familiar faces. I understood that leaving would tear away a piece of their soul and I tried to emphasize that memories are carried within all of us and will always be there.

Show them the benefits

My letter also explained the advantages of living in a beautiful retirement home. It would take away the isolation that I am sure they sometimes must feel. They could have date nights at the movies and have a social life for a change with people that, like them, had decided that they needed pampering in their golden years. In a retirement home, they would get proper nourishment, a doctor would be close at hand and the nurses would dispense the proper medication at the right time.

The most difficult portion of the writing process was stressing how important the decision to move into a retirement home was to them and to me. As we parent the parent, with all the responsibilities that it brings, if they are of sound mind we have to respect that it is their decision to make. Not ours. We can only try our best to convince them.

Appeal to their parental instincts

Playing on their feelings of parenting I wrote how concerned I was about them hoping that they would want to eliminate the worry and stress from me, their child. I also made sure that they knew without a doubt that I would do everything that needed to be done to ensure that the transition into a retirement home was as easy on them as it possibly could be. Moving is stressful at the best of times. Now imagine how difficult it would be if you were in your nineties, had lived in the same residence for fifty years and were faced with picking and choosing from a lifetime of possessions what you wanted to keep, give away or throw out. What an overwhelming chore to undertake.

The whole idea of moving from one residence to another is frightening. It is the fear of leaving the familiarity of one's life, the grief of losing one's independence and the trepidation of not having the strength to adjust to new surroundings and people. It took a lot of courage on my part to actually give them the letter. It took even more courage on my parents' part to make the decision to move into a retirement home. After a few months in their new residence my mother commented, 'You know, a woman only gets to retire when she moves into a retirement home. When it comes to your turn, I hope you won't wait as long as we did.'

If you write your letter with words from your heart you will be amazed at the results for, in the end, it is all about love.

Mississauga Senior Real Estate: Working With a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate

Have questions or need advice on how to make decisions based on choice and not circumstance? As a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate, I believe that every senior deserves personalized service, deep local market knowledge and a commitment to putting their needs first. That's why I offer a range of services that are designed to meet the unique needs of seniors in Mississauga, including:

  • A free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your real estate goals and needs
  • Specialized expertise in helping seniors navigate the downsizing process
  • Access to a network of trusted professionals, including movers, estate planners and home stagers
  • A commitment to transparency, honesty and integrity in all of our dealings

If you have any questions about real estate in Mississauga or the downsizing process, don't hesitate to contact me, Deborah Clerk, Real Estate Sales Representative and Lifestyle55+ Affiliate with Keller Williams Real Estate Associates, Brokerage. I am here to help you every step of the way, and we look forward to working with you soon.

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