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Making the Move: What to Expect

Moving into a senior living community? Learn how to plan your move, embrace the emotional journey, create a timeline and seek help if you need it.


You’ve made the decision to move to a senior living community. You’ve narrowed down your choices to one or two. And you know you need to start the process of getting ready to move – but where do you start? What will the next few months look like? And how will you feel about it all?

Planning Your Move

Whether you’re moving into independent living or assisted living, the moving process can feel overwhelming. Putting a solid plan together will keep you on track and ensure that important details don’t get overlooked. Here are some tips and an infographic timeline to help you get started.

Make a Written Plan

Moving experts recommend creating a move binder to keep yourself organized. It can include:

  • A calendar of key dates and move milestones
  • Task lists
  • Contact information
  • Estimates and receipts
  • Inventory of what you’re taking with you

Get Your House in Order

  • Before you can put your house on the market, get it appraised and start scheduling any repairs or upgrades that need to be done to help sell the house.
  • If you don’t have a real estate agent yet, start researching and vetting them to find the right one for you.
  • Start the process of downsizing and decluttering. Make this big project easier by starting early and focusing on just one area at a time. Decide which items to keep, donate/sell, or throw away.

Pave the Way for a Smooth Transition

You don’t have to wait to get to know the retirement community you choose to move to. There are ways you can start integrating into community life early, so that when you do move in, you’ll already feel at home.

  • Your sales counselor can introduce you to staff and residents.
  • Ask about attending community events so you can start getting to know your future neighbors.
  • Some communities have resident ambassadors who are happy to talk with you, answer questions and introduce you to other residents.

The Emotional Journey

Even when you’re excited about the move, you can expect a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride along the way. Many residents will tell you that at some point you may even have the question, “What have I done?” That’s all normal, and you’ll be able to work through it. Here are a couple of common emotional hurdles, and some ideas to help you overcome them.

Leaving Your House

Making any big change is difficult, including moving away from a place where you’ve built a lot of memories. You may experience bouts of sadness at saying goodbye to the family home. You may feel a little nervous about facing the unknown at your new place. Give yourself permission to work through those feelings over time. And keep reminding yourself of the benefits you’ll be reaping from the move: fewer responsibilities, more time, and a wealth of new opportunities to write your next chapter.


It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of going through all your belongings and getting rid of some of them. And it can be hard to part with items that have fond memories attached to them. That’s why it pays to start early, make a plan and take it slow.

To make the project easier:

  • Plan to do one room – or even one part of a room – at a time.
  • Create a staging area for items you’ll donate or sell at a later date.
  • If you’re going to throw something away, do it right then.

To help you with the emotional and practical aspects of letting go, get the family involved:

  • Let your family go through the house with stickers and label items they want to keep. That way they get to keep something familiar and meaningful, and you know it will continue to be cherished and put to good use.
  • Family members can be more objective about which items you really need and which you can let go of. Let them help you sort through clothing, kitchen and household items, so you won’t be taking duplicate or unnecessary belongings.
  • Decide as a family which charity to donate items to. That way you can all feel good about your furniture or clothes helping other people.

Getting Help

An additional benefit to moving to a senior living community is that they’ll have a move-in coordinator to help make your transition smooth. Some have in-house staff to do that, others contract with professional senior transition services, and some have a combination of both.

The move-in services available will be a tremendous help to you, so take advantage of them. Many communities have preferred packing and moving vendors who have experience with senior moves. Move-in coordinators can help with things like:

  • Prepping your home for sale
  • Downsizing
  • Scheduling utility transitions
  • Coordinating packing and moving services
  • Planning your new space
  • Managing your move day
  • Coordinating unpacking and furniture placement

A Timeline For the Move

As you start to formulate a moving plan, take a look at this timeline to give you an idea of when you need to put certain things into motion. Each community’s move-in process will be a little different, but this infographic should give you a better sense of what the months leading up to your move might look like.

Download Timeline

Making a plan, navigating your feelings, and getting help along the way will help make your move as smooth as possible, and get your senior living experience started off right.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.