Relocation

Every year during the early 1990s, approximately one in six Americans changed residences. Two-thirds of these were local moves, from one resi-

Age (Years) 15-24 -25-34. - | 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 . 75-84

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40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 20 40 60 80 100 Metro Residents in Millions % Metro Residents in Age Group

Figure 9-2 Number and percentage of U.S. metropolitan population by age group.

(Prepared from published data in Saluter, 1996.)

dence to another in the same county. Of the remainder, approximately equal numbers were in-state and out-of-state. It is estimated that, during his or her lifetime, the average American moves about 12 times. Blacks and Hispanics move more often than whites, a statistic that is related to the lower median age of blacks and Hispanics than whites (Hansen, 1995). As might be expected, renters have much higher rates of moving than homeowners. This is true whether the person is living in a housing unit occupied by owners or renters (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995).

The highest mobility rates are found in adults in their twenties and early thirties, and their young children (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). Adults in this age range move, on average, at least once every 2 years. This is the career entry and advancement, family-starting phase of life, a period when young adults seek opportunity and economic stability outside their home communities. A large percentage of these young adults migrate from small towns to large cities, where job advancement and business opportunities are greater. Unfortunately, the out-migration of young people from towns to larger cities, and the subsequent decline of the towns, has a debilitating economic effect on older residents in particular. Older people who have resided in towns for much of their lives may have appreciable economic and personal investment in their homes and communities, and the decline hits them especially hard (Norris-Baker & Scheidt, 1994).

Older adults are generally less mobile than young and middle-aged adults, spending most of their time in their home environment. Only about 10-15% want to move from their current homes, and most of those who do expect to be closer to their families. Those who are forced to move are typically tenants who cannot afford rising rents or otherwise have been displaced by redevelopment, eviction, or conversion of their places of residence to condominiums or apartments with rents too high for them (Kendig, 1990).

The rate of residential moves declines to about 5% for adults in their late seventies and early eighties. However, moves to retirement communities within- and out-of-state, in addition to nursing homes and other long-term-care institutions, cause a slight increase after then. Both the overall and local moving rates are higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites, and higher for renters than for homeowners (Hansen, 1995).

The effects of relocation on the individual vary with age, personality, and a host of other factors. Understandably, involuntary or forced moves may be especially disruptive and upsetting. A home and neighborhood in which one has lived for a long time provides a feeling of security, structure, familiarity, and comfort. These are places that you know, with friendly people, good neighbors, and good memories (Sixsmith & Sixsmith, 1991).

Any move creates a certain amount of stress, depression, and even grief when the individual has lived there for an extended period of time, made friends, and become generally familiar with the community. Frequent moves punctuated by short stays can also have harmful effects on individuals and their families. On the other hand, a favorable new living environment can reduce the level of relocation stress fairly quickly. This is especially true when the move is voluntary, under the control of the mover, and familiar furnishings and mementos accompany the mover to the new place of residence (Scheidt, 1993).

Young adults and those with higher educational levels and social status are more likely to view moving to a new location as an opportunity and adjust to it better. In addition, people who have stronger social supports and a high proportion of same-age peers in the new community tend to cope with frequent moves more effectively than others. The physical characteristics of the new residence, including space, privacy, and convenience, are also quite important (Storandt, Wittels, & Botwinick, 1975).

As expected, local moves are less disturbing than long-distance out-migrations, but moves resulting in the loss of friends and surroundings to which one has become deeply attached can be quite disruptive. The degree to which family behavior patterns are disrupted, the personal loss at leaving one's former residence, and the distance involved in the move are all important factors in adjusting to it. The extent to which the move is under one's control and the reason or meaning of it also affect how it is perceived and reacted to. For example, moving an older adult from an accepting, supportive family environment to a nursing home is not generally viewed as a pleasant experience for anyone. These so-called assistance migration moves (Longino, 1990) occur when an older adult has no family to depend on for services or such severe disabilities that he or she can no longer be maintained in the family home.

Most older adults do not plan to move and reportedly do not want to move to another community or into the homes of relatives or friends (American Association of Retired Persons, 1996). They like where they live and prefer to stay there as long as possible. This is particularly true of older adults who own their own homes, but even those who rent may become attached to a neighborhood and feel that they belong there (American Association of Retired Persons, 1996). Unfortunately, many of the neighborhoods where older adults live are in central cities, replete with noise, traffic, litter, and high crime rates. Familiarity and habit, combined with lower than average incomes, keep older residents there.

For more affluent, and perhaps more flexible, older adults, a second type of migration, amenitymigration, is available (Speare & Meyer, 1988). It occurs when an older adult changes residences in order to improve his or her lifestyle or to maintain a network of friends. This is the pattern followed by a small percentage of young-old mobile retirees who move either in- or out-of-state. The move may be temporary, as with the many New York-to-Florida winter snowbirds who fly or drive south in the winter and back north in the spring, or a relatively permanent transplantation to Florida, Texas, Arizona, or California. A third type of migration, kinship migration, is more prominent among some 65- to 74-year-olds and a larger percentage of over-75-year-olds who move every year to areas inhabited by their children or other close relatives (Longino, 1990). The number of older people who move in with or near their relatives increases significantly after the death of a spouse. This is particularly true of older widows, who are more likely to move in with a married daughter than a married son (Sussman, 1985). In addition, when an elderly parent needs day-to-day assistance, an unmarried adult child may move into the former's residence.

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