This is a great question because I think it is something that is on the minds of many baby boomers these days. Their children are launched; their work is done, and now they are ready for something more: the life they’ve always wanted. But it is intimidating to uproot yourself at 50, 60 or 70 years of age and throw caution to the wind. You may have moved a number of times in your younger years; you may even have moved across the country or to another state before. But it is normal and healthy to experience anxiety and apprehension when thinking about doing this as an older adult?
As a therapist, I would be more concerned if someone was planning to make a big change, such as selling her home and living full-time in an RV, and she seemed blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the change she was undertaking. I would see her as someone who was likely to develop some major adjustment problems as she was really not in touch with the reality of the change. But for the reasonable person who experiences some apprehension or pause when thinking about such a large change, I would offer the following suggestions.
You need to take one step at a time. Whether you are trying to come to terms with a partner retiring or taking to the road full-time or moving to a new location, you will adjust better and more quickly if you can break the process down into steps and take one of them at a time.
The first thing you need to do if you are thinking about living on the road full-time is to take a look at your RV. Is it one that you will want to spend a lot of time in? Is it large enough to be a pseudo-home? Or will you need to replace it? Does it need updating? Taking care of this now can make your transition happen much more smoothly and with less drama than if you wait to make these decisions until your home is sold and you are about to hit the road.
The second suggestion I would make to my client is to stay focused on the here and now. When contemplating a larger change, it is easy to let our thoughts and worries run away with us. What if we never see the children and grandchildren over the holidays because we don’t have a home for them to come to? What will happen as we age? You could go on forever “what-if-ing,” but you would not accomplish anything but immobilizing yourself.
Put in place the safeguards that you can: Get insurance taken care of; make sure retirement and mutual funds are easily accessible, and make sure you have an account into which your social security can be directly deposited. And talk with your children about this dream you are hoping to undertake. Most children just want their parents to be happy. If you are and are living the life you want, they will be less likely to worry about you or feel guilty for only visiting at the holidays. They may feel relieved that you are living the dream.
And remember, you are modeling for them how to “do” older adulthood. If you are having a great time, they too are more likely to embrace this time period eagerly because you have shown them how. Just take care not to get too far ahead of yourself, and you will be fine.
Take a Break
Take a break from all of this change and planning. It is not healthy for us to spend 24/7 planning for the future. Give yourself some time to plan your escape, ideally six months to a year. Then take breaks between planning/arranging sessions to live your life. Take advantage of the stability in your life to bring you back to a state of normalcy. Appreciate the routine in your life. Let that give you comfort, even as you work to undo it.
Comfort and Stability
Then think about how you can establish some stability or add routines to your new life; perhaps it is a morning coffee ritual you share with your husband, or maybe it is a walk together at the end of the day. These predictable habits will give you comfort and stability, even during your most chaotic and changing times. Focusing on the move 24/7 makes it difficult to enjoy what you have and do in the present. Give yourself permission to not be thinking, planning, packing and arranging all of the time.
Finally, you need to trust that all will work out as it is meant to in the end. Perhaps you will take to the road and love it! Or maybe you will want to make another change after a few years of traveling. Perhaps the move across the country will be the ticket to your friend’s new life. Or perhaps she will decide that living in her new state is not what she thought it would be and she wants to move on again.
While the future may not look exactly as we have planned, accept that it will look as it is meant to be. We cannot know that now, and I am a believer in the idea that all things happen for a reason and that we should not know what lies around every corner. Remember, as the saying goes, Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. I would hate to miss it.
And remember, if you want to make this change and choose not to due to the stress and anxiety, won’t you always wonder what would have happened if you had taken a chance? That does not mean it will always be easy. But it does mean you are making the decision to truly live your life.
You see, decisions and moves like this can actually keep you young. Rather than settling for the life that would be easier, if less fulfilling, you are going for what you want and seeking to better your lot. Moves like this keep you engaged and energized rather than becoming depressed and lethargic, which can happen if you have the desire but never act on it. We have a responsibility to take a chance and live life to the fullest. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got!
Diane is a therapist in private practice who works extensively with clients on stress management and relationship issues. She and her family are also avid RVers. Her articles are meant to provide information of a general nature and are not intended as specific psychological advice or to take the place of consulting with a health care professional.