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Helping Seniors Downsize

How to Help Aging Parents Downsize


Moving from the family home is among the most stressful events an older adult ever faces. At a time when emotions are running high, the list of things-to-do seems endless...a lifetime of belongings to sort through...tough decisions to make about what to take and what to do with the things that aren't going...countless errands and phone calls.moving and downsizing

Then there's the chaos of moving day and living out of boxes until everything is unpacked and put away. Very often, later-life moves come about as the result of illness or the death of a spouse, so both the senior and his or her family are stressed before the move even begins.


Even the healthiest and most independent seniors often find relocation very demanding--both physically and emotionally.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that families are more spread out geographically and not always available to help with the moving process.

National Association of Senior Move Managers

moving and downsizing

Although making the decision to move is usually the first step in the moving process, it is not the hardest decision. It's what to take and what to do with what you leave behind. Typically the new residence will be too small to take everything, and many years worth of treasured possessions will have to be inventoried and decided upon.

In fact, the whole process of planning the move and the arrangement of the new space, packing up and moving –in and out, and deciding what to keep and what to dispose of can seem like such and overwhelming task to the senior that the much needed move is put off.

About Senior Move Managers

The term Senior Move Manager® is a service mark owned by NASMM. Only NASMM members are Senior Move Managers®. All NASMM General Members have completed required courses in safety and ethics, and are screened for insurance and experience. Please confirm the Senior Move Manager® you hire holds the proper insurance.

Many families are now relying on professional senior move managers to help with the pre-move (downsizing) and moving day coordination that can help seniors and families develop a relocation plan, provide the necessary moving resources, organize, supervise the actual move on moving day and even help to prepare the former residence for the real estate market.

Many of the 70+ population are also selling their homes in favor of smaller houses or condos, either in traditional neighborhoods or retirement communities, or to be closer to their kids and grand-kids.

Moving can be stressful enough for many and especially traumatic for someone who is leaving a home they've been in for decades that is full of precious memories. Not only is the packing and cleaning process physically demanding, it also takes an emotional toll. A specialists can provide an element of compassionate objectivity as decisions are made about what to keep, give away, sell or toss.

Many senior move managers offer a wide range of services including:

  • Assistance with selling the current home
  • Assistance with finding a new residence
  • Assistance with selecting a moving company
  • Sorting and downsizing
  • Estate sales
  • Coordinating movers, utilities, cleaning and other tasks
  • Packing and unpacking

If you are helping a senior to clear out a household follow some of techniques to
keep emotional conflicts at bay:

  • Involve Your Parent - You'll also want to involve your parent to the greatest extent possible in the move. Certainly, it's much faster not to, but an older person's involvement in the move is the most reliable predictor of how well and how quickly he or she adjusts after the move. Your parent will naturally want to reminisce during this time. This is a critical part of the process of saying goodbye, but again--it can be time consuming.
  • Spend a day with the person to get her started and leave her with piles to work through for 15 minutes a few times a day. "Little baby steps help them digest the idea of clearing it out."
  • Start with the rooms that have fewer emotional attachments, like the basement or attic. Get a floor plan of the new rooms to see what furniture will fit.
  • It is comforting to see beloved possessions go to a friend or be passed on to a grandchild.
  • When going through keepsakes, an older adult may just need to read the postcards one more time to then be able to throw them out. "If it's a larger item, like a mounted trophy, you can take a photo to preserve it or video tape the senior telling a story about it."
  • If a collection of phonograph records is important, try to record them on tape and buy a compact stereo system.
  • A senior is moving to a retirement home may no longer need cooking tools or cleaning supplies. Donate them to social services.
  • If Dad's attic is filled with his children's stuff, set a deadline for the kids to pick it up.
  • On the other hand, don't avoid downsizing by moving Mom's stuff into a son's attic. That simply postpones the inevitable.

Additional Senior Move Resources ~


Housing and Mortgage Resources for Seniors
Senior Move Services
Seniors Get Help with Downsizing
Benefits of Hiring a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

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