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The word for today is 'merism'

If you regularly read this column, you may recall my writing about our recent move, a dramatic, late-in-life, residential relocation. One way of putting it is, “They dug up the garden and moved lock, stock and barrel.”

We did not have an actual garden, but we did purge our raised beds. As for the reference to “lock, stock and barrel,” it’s a term originating in the United Kingdom and refers to all the major portions of a gun, further defined as “entirely” or “completely.” We don’t own any guns, but we did, despite active culling, move a whole lot of “stuff.”

Culling refers to paring down possessions — and we all know what “stuff” is.

For us, the items we moved ranged from decades-old college textbooks to hiking boots that turn out to be way too small. With the help of family, friends and a team of young professional movers, wearing masks throughout the process, we transported ourselves from a mixed-rural setting to a large city.

I continue to be surprised at the number of emails I receive from people inquiring about our relocation. Queries range from “Exactly where did you move?” to ”Now that you are moved, anything you wish you had done differently?” The answer to the latter question is, “cull a whole lot more actively.”

I answer all of the questions receive, and I often add this reminder. In considering a late in life residential change, “There’s a window, and once it closes, it closes forever.”

This powerful sentence was the title of an article in the Boston Globe years go resulting from a talk by Len Fishman, director of the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute. He was referring to “the right time” for older adults to consider relocation.

Not everyone has the luxury of even thinking about a housing change in the later stages of life. Not everyone wants to do that — or can do that financially. I think the Boston Globe’s reference to the decision-making window that “once closed, is closed forever” is what originally got our collective attention and initiated relocation considerations in our household.

It was reminders like this: “Make the move too soon and lose an important part of yourself wait too long — until your physical or cognitive state has greatly deteriorated — and any place that won’t be depressing won’t take you.”

Late in life relocation is a big deal. Any discussion about doing so should be thoughtful and well researched. The literature on this supports that “physical and mental status are significant predictors of relocation adjustment.” Thoughtful and adequate preparation is critical.

If you can, I suggest you initiate the discussion and make the decision when you are still “in the pink” — in a healthy, optimal state. That phrase and the reference to “lock, stock and barrel” are called merisms. It is most simply described as “the reference to a whole by an enumeration of its parts.” It’s my word for the day, and I intend to try to use it when my husband and I play Scrabble tonight on our balcony overlooking the Columbia River.

Sharon Johnson is a happily retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.