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How to Have Fruitful Family Meeting

October 20, 2023
Senior women with family at the dinner table outdoors

When broaching the subject of moving into a senior living community with your family, empathy and earnestness are the keys to constructive conversation.

Ultimately, all your planning and preparation are groundwork for a single moment: convening a family meeting to finally announce your senior-living wishes. Like other family meetings you may have had over the years, the ensuing conversation might be unsettling and uncomfortable. But it’s also really important. Keeping in mind the following advice will ensure that everyone feels heard so you can build your future with the support of a family that’s united instead of divided.

Make A Date

When, where and how you have the talk can be just as important as what you say. The first thing you should do is to arrange having the conversation at a time and place that’s convenient for your loved ones. Instead of blindsiding them over dinner in a public restaurant, for example, tell them ahead of time that you’d like to have a serious conversation, then let them decide where they’d like to have it. That gives them time to prepare themselves, and makes them feel like they have agency in the discussion they’re about to have with you.

Break The Ice

Starting the discussion often is the most difficult part of it. To get things off on the right foot, consider different ways to break the ice. For instance, you could:

  1. Emphasize your desires.
  2. Acknowledge obstacles.
  3. Share success stories.
  4. Focus on the Family.

Underscore Your Independence

If your family is concerned about your decision, it could be because they imagine senior living communities as places where seniors live sedentary lifestyles inside cloistered facilities. The refreshing reality—that many senior living communities not only encourage active, independent living, but actually make it safer and more feasible—can be eye-opening for adult children and others who are skeptical.

Make It Clear: This Isn’t Personal

Adult children in particular might take it personally when you tell them that you want to live in senior housing. They might have imagined, for example, that you would eventually move in with them when you needed extra support. Or maybe you already do live with them, in which case they might feel hurt that you have decided you’d be happier elsewhere. In the case of assisted living communities, adult children might also have a hard time entrusting your well-being to others, insisting that no one will be able to give you the same level of care and love that they can give.

If you sense that your loved ones feel wounded by your wishes, the best thing you can do is reiterate your motivations and reassure them that your choice has nothing to do with them. They didn’t do anything wrong or push you away; rather, you’re simply ready to pursue new goals in a new environment.

Embrace Empathy

Even if your family doesn’t take your decision personally, they might have other objections. For example, perhaps your adult children were counting on you for childcare that you’ll no longer be able to provide. Maybe they’re worried that your decision will have financial implications for them—that they will have to help you cover the costs of senior living, for example, or that you will spend their inheritance on rent. Or perhaps your aging simply makes them feel insecure about their own advancing years.

Whatever they are, their concerns are real, even if you don’t believe them to be valid. For that reason, the most important thing you can bring to your conversation with family is empathy. Change is hard to process, and aging is emotional. Before you become defensive or combative, try to put yourself in your family’s shoes. Remain calm, honest and rational, even if they cannot. If you can be continually aware of their concerns and unflinchingly respectful of their feelings, cooler heads eventually will prevail.

Practice Active Listening

Remember, this is supposed to be a conversation. That means not just talking, but also listening. Often, family members who have objections or concerns simply want to be heard as they process the new choices and challenges that you’re facing. You can do your part to help them through it by being silent and attentive, by not interrupting, by withholding judgment, by asking insightful questions and by repeating their points back to them so they know you understood them.

For more tips on discussing moving to a senior living community with your family, check out the guide!