Remember when you went to summer camp…for the first time…on your own? Mom left you with strangers and drove away in the car. You might have been filled with excitement or fear or both!

When moving into a community for seniors, residents face one of the most challenging changes in their life. It's sort of like summer camp without an end. They leave their home, support system and independence behind. Many have mobility issues or perhaps a level of dementia. What factors enable them to adjust to and embrace this new reality?

Both current research as well as our own observations as chaplains and pastors to seniors all provide us with valuable resources that ensure residents can embrace this new chapter in their life.

Frankly, some new residents arrive relieved. They have lived alone without support or friends for a long time. This  new home provides warmth, security, meals and medical support as needed. Others admit to me that they now have to “squeeze their house and possessions” into one or two bedroom accommodations. But all residents need to adjust and we note below some of the factors that help them with this journey.

Here is a  list of factors resulting from research that enable residents to thrive in their new reality:

New residents who embrace this chapter with a healthy attitude enjoy a support system of friends and families. They help them settle in with pictures on the walls and personal effects that remind them of home. These family and friends continue to visit and stay in touch through whatever means they can.

Their church friends and pastors stay in touch. However, these new residents are also marked by an awareness of their own feelings whether positive or negative. The role of the chaplain is to provide a safe place where they can share this kaleidoscope of emotions.

Residents have a flexible approach to life. They have adapted to the lifelong ability to roll with the punches of life. This attitude has been part of their entire life and now enables them to transition once again.

Residents who adapt well also have a good sense of humor. The ability to laugh at life, even if with an edge to their humor. Furthermore, such residents also have spent their life developing problem solving abilities in many settings. They now apply those problem solving abilities to this new reality.

As well, residents who adapt well have the self confidence that they can do this. They welcome new people into their life and view this chapter as an exciting adventure. Finally, we have noticed that residents with a deep and real faith know that God is still in control of their life and they can trust in Him. Watch for these attitudes in the residents who come into your community and enable them to embrace this chapter with joy and enthusiasm.

Written by Daryl Busby, Ph.D.