7 Tips to Help Seniors have Less Stress Downsizing

As a realtor, you will inevitably one day have to help seniors who need to downsize.  They most likely will have spent 20+ years in their current home and now due to health reasons or just being tired of maintaining a larger home, have decided to downsize to a condo or senior's residence. 

Downsizing is a very difficult process.  Not only will the senior be moving to a smaller home with less space but he/she will also have to give away a lot of what they own to family and friends.   They will have to leave the house filled with precious memories and embark on an unknown journey for their remaining golden years.

Having gone through it myself as well as being a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging, I look back and remember discussions with my parents about moving and downsizing years before any move took place.  Discussing options of where to move and into what kind of dwelling after their home would be sold, was a regular conversation.  This not only let us know about what our parents wanted, but it prepared us all that this would eventually happen.

Encourage the family members to discuss the moving process with their senior loved ones.  Your communication with the seniors helps them feel they are not being made to make choices they did not want to make.  If you can, ask the senior, 'Who is there to support you throughout this process?' and try to have those family members or friends be present at any meeting you should have with the senior owners.

Here are 7 ways to help make the process smoother.  I am touching on a few areas just to give you some things to think about.

1. Respect and Love. Sometimes you might be called in to evaluate the value of the senior's property before they have made the decision to hire you. Keep the dialogue open with the senior and those who support him or her. If the senior has decided to move to a residence or condo, ask how you can help them with the process. It is better to be working with them where they are in control than to take control. Many times adult children come in and take control without regard to the senior's feelings or desires. 

If the senior does not want to move but has to for health reasons, suggest visiting the residence. Sometimes if they have friends in the home already, it makes the move easier. Suggest the family bring in other support such as a family friends, clergy or perhaps discussing it with your family physician.

Treat the senior with respect. They deserve it.

Sunrise of Beaconsfield

2. Book occupancy in condo/senior's residence as early as possible. The more time a senior has to move the better. If you can arrange for the senior to have access to her/his new place one month prior to having to vacating their present home, this will really reduce the stress of moving. It will cost a bit more but the senior can visit and spend time there before the actual move of the furniture. Having extra time to make decisions about what to keep, where to put furniture, will make the transition smoother and more economical. Economical because you are taking the time to make decisions about what to keep instead of moving everything in and then paying to move things out because the new place is so much smaller than anticipated.

Start by choosing the major pieces of furniture, the living room, dining room and bedroom sets if they are moving into a condo. Once that has been decided upon and perhaps moved earlier, smaller items can be moved later by car once decisions about the items have been made.

3. Have a backup storage space. Sometimes the move to downsize is very fast due to health reasons. If money is not an object, having some storage space as a back up will also give the senior and family members more time. It is expensive, but it does take off some of the pressure in making quick decisions.

4. Empty a room. To help speed up the purging process, suggest that the senior choose a vacant room in their current house to place the items they do not want to keep but wish to give away to their children or friends. This organizes and separates items from their other household goods and makes it easier to invite their children or friends to choose what items they want from that room. 

Many times seniors would rather see someone they love take their treasures than to put it in a garage sale. Parting with treasures is easier when they can see the item in a family member's house.

5. Hire a Professional Organizer. Hiring a Professional Organizer to work with the senior will definitely speed things up. They would have to do lists for the senior as well as a schedule to help keep the downsizing process moving. The Professional Organizer will work closely with the senior and their family.

6. Do the moving for them. A great suggestion to family members is to take charge of the entire move as long as the senior approves. Once the decisions are made as to what furniture and belongings are going to be moved into the condo or residence, have the senior stay in a hotel for a few days.

While they are there, move everything, and set the condo or residence up with all their favorite things. Hang the art and arrange the furniture. When they walk in and see all of their own things, they will feel at home right away.

Many seniors are not used to moving, so it can be very stressful. Decisions will need to be made in a short period of time and if the house is sold, the moving deadline will be on their minds as well. Keep the stress levels down if you can.

Photograph by Rosevita with permission

7. Send flowers and call. After the dust has settled and the senior has moved, send flowers and check up if they are ok. Many seniors spend a lot of time with friends and family or even alone. They will inevitably discuss their home selling and moving experience. You will be part of those discussions. It is important to care about the senior to the very end. 

Joanne Vroom- CPCA, Professional Organizer and Home Stager