Leaving home is an ordeal for seniors and their families

A “Gaz Factory”. This is how Jacqueline, 73, describes her daily organization of caring for her 96-year-old mother. Secluded in her first floor apartment with no elevator, she has been suffering from joint problems for several years that prevent her from raising her arms or putting one foot in front of the other.

A domestic help comes three times a day to look after her, and her three daughters take over at the weekends. “We are always afraid that she will fall or that a lifeguard will not come without warning, which has happened several times”worries Jacqueline.

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Exhausted because she considered the situation unsustainable in the medium term, Jacqueline had found a place in a retirement home in Vincennes (Val-de-Marne), not far from where she lived. However, this solution is anything but unanimous among the three sisters, and since the Orpea scandal, the old lady no longer wants to hear about it. “Result: We stay with this status quo until an accident forces us to make a decision. It’s not life, but my mother is sane and cannot be forced out of the apartment she’s lived in for decades.”dissolves Jacqueline.

More mobile “grandpa boomers”?

This dilemma is shared by many families confronted with aging and the progressive loss of autonomy. “A very large majority of retirees want to grow old in their own homes, but few really give themselves the means to do so, either by adapting their homes, which is not always possible, or by moving to safer housing.”observes the sociodemographer Laurent Nowik (1).

With the unprecedented development of “intermediate living spaces”, however, he is counting on more mobility for the “grandfather boomers” in the coming years, a generation more used to movement that does not want to burden their children. The latter, sometimes economically weakened, will not always be able to support them.

Only 10 to 15% of households change their place of residence after the age of 70. Many seniors take the step into retirement to visit beautiful vacation spots or to return to their home region where they have maintained friendships and family ties, and sometimes acquired a second home. The second wave of mobility occurs around the age of 75. To the above reasons is added the desire to get closer to services (medical centers, shops, etc.).

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“People seek security and fight isolation”interprets Laurent Nowik, who notes new power relations in the couple: “If traditionally Monsieur made the important decisions, it is often Madame who makes the choice of territory. Many men have understood that their wives risk outliving them and that it is important to settle where they are comfortable, with family close by. »

Avoid hasty decisions

Many widowed women also leave a home that is too large and difficult to maintain for a smaller apartment in an urban setting. However, Laurent Nowik warns against hasty decisions made under pressure from children: “Some older people find themselves in an area they know little or nothing about and lose their social network. Their children, trapped in their own lives, are barely available. This uprooting becomes a source of great suffering. »

Elisabeth, 75, went through a major depression after coming to live with her children in Toulouse following the death of her husband. “They took care of everything and got me a modern apartment with a lift and a veranda, but I miss my friends in Nantes”, she says three months later. And above all, what a hassle to find a new doctor, dentist or hairdresser… and to give up country dancing and water aerobics, which she practiced diligently. Luckily, the help of the Demen’âge association, which specializes in helping seniors, helped ease the stress of moving.

→ RECOMMENDATIONS. Retired couples, they have found a balance

“Sorting through the belongings accumulated over the course of a lifetime, mourning over certain furniture or objects laden with memories can induce great anxiety.”warns Sofiane Benabed, support manager at Demen’âge. “So we take our time and often travel with two employees: one makes the boxes while the other listens and comforts. »

Rebuilding social bonds to live longer

To mitigate the feeling of dispossession, Sofiane Benabed tries to appreciate as best as possible the goods that the person cannot take with them, by giving them to a family member or a recycling center. In the event of tension in the family, the presence of the children on site can facilitate or, on the contrary, complicate the process.

Well-prepared and well-supported, some seniors can live through this experience with ease, even feeling relieved of the burden of the past. Christiane, 85, kept almost nothing of the furniture in her apartment when she came to her work dorm. she did not want “live locked in memories. From a certain age we focus on the essentials: two picture frames, a small side table, a recliner in which we feel comfortable »assures Mathieu Decultis, who manages the network of Maisons Marguerite, a residential community for the elderly, with his mother.

If the integration of the rules of a shared apartment sometimes requires some adjustment time, according to Mathieu Decultis, entering a Maison Marguerite does so. “gain life points” : Relief soothed by the heaviness of everyday life. The same observation by Christophe Baiocco, co-founder of the association Vivre en Béguinage: “Rebuilding social bonds, engaging in activities that stimulate intellectual and physical abilities, feeling useful, and being in control of your life are all factors that enable you to age well and improve your health obtain. »


Life expectancy and loss of autonomy

► Life expectancy is 78.4 years for men and 84.8 years for women. According to INSEE, it is expected to reach 86 years for men and 91.1 years for women by 2060.

► France now has 15 million people aged 60 and over. They will be 20 million in 2030 and almost 24 million in 2060, including 5 million over the age of 85 (up from 1.4 million today).

► The majority of older people age under good conditions of autonomy. Only 8% of people over 60 are dependent and one in five people over 85. The median age at which autonomy is lost is 83 years.

(Source: Ministry of Solidarity and Health, 2021)

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