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A Guide to Downsizing for Seniors

Downsizing can be an emotional challenge for many seniors, but others actually look forward to tapering down their belongings and enjoying more free time by moving to a smaller place that requires less upkeep. Some seniors are very open to the idea of downsizing and may bring up the idea themselves. However, it may be necessary for family or friends to sit down with their loved one and discuss their options when the time arrives.

Timing these talks properly is essential, and the subject likely should not be brought up unless the senior is experiencing medical or caregiving issues that are hindering their quality of life. Approach the topic of downsizing and moving gently and compassionately. Use caution to ensure that the senior doesn’t feel like they’re involved in an intervention or being ‘ganged up on’ by friends and family. Make sure they know that it is authentic care and concern for their wellbeing that is being prioritized.

After the decision has been made to proceed with the process, this guide to downsizing for seniors will help families and their aging loved ones through the process with minimal stress.

Step #1: Choosing a New Place to Call Home

For a number of reasons, the most important thing to address first when downsizing is to determine where the senior’s next home will be. Considerations must be addressed such as whether or not the senior has memory issues, mobility concerns, their level of caregiving needs, budget constraints, the location of their loved ones and the preference of the senior. Deciding where they will move allows them to figure out just how much downsizing will be necessary. Furthermore, it may help the senior begin to feel more comfortable about the move and be far less reluctant and remorseful about the situation. The most typical options for downsizing seniors include:

  • Renting or buying a smaller home or condominium.
  • Taking residence with a family member or trusted friend.
  • Moving into assisted living.
  • Entering into a retirement community.
  • Nursing home facilities.

It is important to keep in mind that compromises by are parties involved in the transition stages are likely to be necessary along the way to help streamline the process, and patience and honest communication will be vital to success. Also, be aware that many types of senior care facilities can customize arrangements for their charges, but they may come at an additional cost.

Step #2: Make a Plan and Begin Implementing it ASAP

As soon as it has been agreed that the downsize and move will be happening, it’s best to get started planning and implementing the process even before the home (if one is involved) is put on the market for sale. Lists are a downsizing senior’s friend, and copies should be made for those planning to assist with the transition in any way so that everyone stays on the same page. Be sure to include the necessary steps that will help streamline the downsizing process, so the more details included on the planning list, the better things are likely to go.

Step #3: Begin the De-cluttering and Downsizing Process

The core of the downsizing plan should address the primary rooms within the home like the living room, bedroom, dining area and kitchen and as these tend to have the bulkiest objects and also contain the most ‘stuff.’ Unfortunately, these rooms often tend to feature items that both used regularly and also pieces that hold high sentimental value. It’s essential when deciding what to take on the move to know the measurements of the new living space.

This can help determine how much and which items goes onto the ‘take with’ list, especially concerning furnishings and unnecessary items that there may not be ample room for. Tackle each space armed with boxes or containers to separate items between five piles—those to: keep, pass along to family, donate, sell and throw away. Once these are these tackled, plan to take to task other areas like bathrooms, garages, attics, basements and sheds etc.

When seniors or their families are trying to determine which ‘pile’ and item should go into, ask the following questions until an answer guides your hand.

  • Is it necessary?
  • Does the senior really want it?
  • Are their multiples of this item?
  • Is this utilized regularly?
  • Is their sentimental value to the item?
  • Is it of significant financial value?
  • Will this fit into the smaller space?
  • Would a family member or friend appreciate the item or use it?

Be forewarned, this may be a multi-faceted process, as it is not uncommon for seniors and their families to have to tackle the piles again in effort to further reduce the keep pile. Remember, it's a long and challenging process that will take perseverance and patience by all involved in the downsizing process.

Step #4: Feeling Overwhelmed or Struggling? Contact a Senior Move Manager

If a senior or their families begin to feel too pressured, find themselves short on time or simply prefer that a professional comes in and helps with the planning and downsizing decision making process, senior move managers are there to help. These individuals specialize in helping senior make the transition in to smaller housing situations or into a senior living community of some type.

Most communities today feature at least one senior moving service, and they can help with the downsizing process in multiple ways as little as one needs or as much as they desire. These services can range from helping choose a new residence and assisting with downsizing in the home to assisting with packing and moving and even cleaning up the old residence afterwards.

Are you or a loved one considering downsizing into a senior living community and are looking for a place that meets your needs and considerations? Explore the vast selection of senior options available in our senior living directory.

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