Will Moving Later in Life Impact Your Health? It Depends…

Researchers at Syracuse University recently published a report outlining the diverse impact that moving has on older adults. This study builds on previous research that found that moving has the potential to change the health status of older adults. Many older adults do not move or wish to move from their current homes, so this research is mostly relevant for senior housing providers and older adults thinking about moving.

There are three common types of moves that older adults make. The first happens around the time they retire. The majority of these movers are relatively healthy and well-off. These moves are often long-distance moves to communities that support active post-retirement living. The second occurs as a reaction to minor forms of chronic illness and disability.  This move is common among widows and widowers, who often move to closer to adult children or other family and friends. The third type of move is most often into a nursing home or skilled nursing residence; obviously associated with a significant health event or decline in functioning that overwhelms a family’s ability to care for the older adult.

The motivations for moving are vastly different for each type of move and this research demonstrates that the health impact of these moves can be linked to these different motives. Utilizing data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers found divergent health trajectories within each type of move.

Often it is assumed that all moves create health risks for older adults. The current study finds that this is not true, especially for adults moving for the purposes of seeking active retirement living or minimal assistance from friends and family. The only move that was associated with steep declines in health was into nursing homes. The major difference between the active movers and those moving closer to family was that those moving closer to family were slightly less healthy than the active movers.

Service and housing providers should pay attention to the reasons why new residents have moved in, because it could be a signal for what their needs and wants will be.


Source: Wilmoth, J. 2010. Health trajectories among older movers. Journal of Aging and Health published online (early edition).

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