Journal of Gerontological Nursing

EDITORIAL 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Sue Morgan, PhD, RN, C, GNP

Abstract

This editorial seems to be getting more and more personal as time goes on. I have recently experienced a major relocation which echoes of textbook elderly relocation trauma cases. First-hand experience and acknowledgment of this trauma lead me to reiterate what the textbooks only warn us might happen.

The pre-move preparation was foreboding with box accumulation, sorting and throwing out. How do the elderly with their additional years of accumulation ever make those decisions? Then came garage sale after garage sale. Surely our older population cannot nor should not haul furniture out to a hot garage for a two-day sale.

How does one move from a house with dozens of extra closets, a full basement, attic and garage to a prehistoric house with no closets, garage, attic or basement? We expect our elders to do the equivalent when they move from a homestead into an apartment or condominium.

The moving day was another kind of ordeal altogether. The best approach is to close one's eyes and ears or leave town. If you have trouble watching people drop and break what you consider to be valuable then leave town! In fact, hiring movers might be a luxury.

Post-move can be even more traumatic and the reason why many senior citizens return to the home state or city. Suddenly you realize that you know no one in your new location and no one cares. Your friends and relatives are hours and states away. The familiar grocery and drug stores have become strangers. You do not know who to call to repair leaks and cars. You want to find a new church but all of these adjustments take time and energy which are both in short supply for many elderly.

I believe we have underestimated relocation trauma in the elderly. It now seems almost a miracle that they and I survived moving at all - at least long enough to move back. All this is to say, movers be aware and neighbors be alert. In my case, the cookies, biscuits and pies came the first week and then everyone disappeared. I was left with thank you notes to write and no addresses. Your loved ones or elderly friends may encounter the same or similar difficulties. Their aloneness can be very real and devastating. "Reach out and touch someone" does not just apply to telephone use. All of us need to be aware and be alert and then be proactive in helping the elderly who choose to relocate.…

This editorial seems to be getting more and more personal as time goes on. I have recently experienced a major relocation which echoes of textbook elderly relocation trauma cases. First-hand experience and acknowledgment of this trauma lead me to reiterate what the textbooks only warn us might happen.

The pre-move preparation was foreboding with box accumulation, sorting and throwing out. How do the elderly with their additional years of accumulation ever make those decisions? Then came garage sale after garage sale. Surely our older population cannot nor should not haul furniture out to a hot garage for a two-day sale.

How does one move from a house with dozens of extra closets, a full basement, attic and garage to a prehistoric house with no closets, garage, attic or basement? We expect our elders to do the equivalent when they move from a homestead into an apartment or condominium.

The moving day was another kind of ordeal altogether. The best approach is to close one's eyes and ears or leave town. If you have trouble watching people drop and break what you consider to be valuable then leave town! In fact, hiring movers might be a luxury.

Post-move can be even more traumatic and the reason why many senior citizens return to the home state or city. Suddenly you realize that you know no one in your new location and no one cares. Your friends and relatives are hours and states away. The familiar grocery and drug stores have become strangers. You do not know who to call to repair leaks and cars. You want to find a new church but all of these adjustments take time and energy which are both in short supply for many elderly.

I believe we have underestimated relocation trauma in the elderly. It now seems almost a miracle that they and I survived moving at all - at least long enough to move back. All this is to say, movers be aware and neighbors be alert. In my case, the cookies, biscuits and pies came the first week and then everyone disappeared. I was left with thank you notes to write and no addresses. Your loved ones or elderly friends may encounter the same or similar difficulties. Their aloneness can be very real and devastating. "Reach out and touch someone" does not just apply to telephone use. All of us need to be aware and be alert and then be proactive in helping the elderly who choose to relocate.

10.3928/0098-9134-19960701-06

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