Life Style

Leaving home, an ordeal for seniors and their families

A ” Gaz factory “. This is how Jacqueline, 73, describes her daily organization to care for her 96-year-old mother. Recluse in her apartment located on the first floor without elevator, the latter has suffered for several years from joint problems, which prevent her from raising her arms or putting one foot in front of the other.

Home helpers come three times a day to take care of her, and her three daughters take over at weekends. “We are always afraid that she will fall or that a life assistant will not come, without warning, which has already happened several times”worries Jacqueline.

→ MAINTENANCE. Old age and moving: “You have to have the courage to anticipate”

Exhausted, judging the situation untenable in the medium term, Jacqueline had found a place in a retirement home in Vincennes (Val-de-Marne), near her home. However, this solution is far from unanimous among the three sisters, and since the Orpea scandal, the old lady no longer wants to hear about it. “Result: we stay on this status quo until an accident forces us to make a decision. It’s not a life, but my mother is in her right mind and she can’t be forced out of the apartment where she’s lived for decades.”resolves Jacqueline.

More mobile “grandpa-boomers”?

This dilemma is shared by many families, faced with aging and the progressive loss of autonomy. “A very large majority of retirees want to age in place, but few really give themselves the means to do so, either by adapting their home, which is not always possible, or by moving to secure accommodation”observes the socio-demographer Laurent Nowik (1).

With the unprecedented development of “intermediate habitats”, he is betting, however, in the years to come, on greater mobility for “grandpa-boomers”, a generation more accustomed to moving, and determined not to weigh on 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 plunge when retiring, to go to pleasant vacation spots or return to their native region where they have maintained friendly and family ties, and have sometimes acquired a second home. The second wave of mobility takes place around the age of 75. Added to the above reasons is the desire to get closer to services (medical centres, shops, etc.).

→ TESTIMONIALS. “Here, I have reconstructed a little home”: senior service residences, between autonomy and security

“People seek to regain a sense of security and to fight against 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 surviving them and that it is important to settle where they feel good, with family nearby. »

Avoid hasty decisions

Many widowed women also leave a house that has become too big and difficult to maintain on their own, for a smaller dwelling in an urban setting. However, Laurent Nowik warns against hasty decisions, taken under pressure from children: “Some elderly people find themselves in an area they know little or nothing about and lose their social network. Their children, caught up in their own lives, are hardly available. This uprooting becomes a source of great suffering. »

Elisabeth, 75, went through a big depression after joining her children in Toulouse, following the death of her husband. “They took care of everything and found 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 look for a new doctor, dentist or hairdresser… and to give up country dancing and water aerobics, which she practiced diligently. Fortunately, the help of the Demen’âge association, which specializes in supporting seniors, helped ease the stress of the move.

→ TESTIMONIALS. Retired couples, they have found a balance

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

Rebuilding social ties to live longer

In order to attenuate the feeling of dispossession, Sofiane Benabed strives to value as much as possible the goods that the person cannot take away, by giving them to a member of the family or to a recycling centre. The presence of the children on the spot can facilitate the process or, on the contrary, make it more complex, in the event of tensions in the family.

Well prepared and well supported, some seniors can live this experience smoothly, even feel freed from the weight of the past. Christiane, 85, kept almost nothing of the furniture in her apartment when she joined her service residence. She did not want to “live locked in memories. After a certain age, we relate to the essentials: two photo frames, a small pedestal table, a relax armchair in which we feel good »assures Mathieu Decultis, who manages with his mother the network of Maisons Marguerite, shared accommodation for the elderly.

If integrating the rules of shared accommodation sometimes requires time to adapt, entering a Maison Marguerite does, according to Mathieu Decultis, “gain life points” : being relieved of the heaviness of everyday life soothes. Same observation made by Christophe Baiocco, co-founder of the Vivre en Béguinage association: “Rebuilding social ties, participating in activities that stimulate intellectual and physical abilities, feeling useful and staying in control of your life are all factors that allow you to age well and maintain your health. »


Life expectancy and loss of autonomy

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

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

► The majority of elderly people age in good conditions of autonomy. Only 8% of people over 60 are dependent and one person over 85 in five. The average age of loss of autonomy is 83 years.

(Source: Ministry of Solidarity and Health, 2021)


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