Downsizing a home can present emotional and physical challenges for senior citizens. Sorting a household of possessions – and wading through a lifetime of memories – can be daunting for both seniors and their caregivers.
David Ekerdt, author and director of gerontology at Kansas University, reports that 62 percent of seniors aged 70 to 79 indicate having more things than they need – and find it difficult to give up their items. As overwhelming as it may seem, downsizing can help to create a simple, safe and stress-free environment for your senior loved one.
Why senior citizens downsize
- Maintenance. MetLife Mature Market Institute reports that adults 55 and up want help with gardening, minor home repairs, meal deliveries and housekeeping.
- Cost of living. Cutting housing costs is a quick way to save money and increase retirement savings.“Moving into more compact quarters can lower one of your biggest monthly expenses,” advises Emily Brandon of US News: Money. “The smaller space also costs less to heat, furnish and maintain.”
- Health Issues. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that roughly one million Americans reside in senior care facilities – and this number is expected to double by 2030.For those with reduced physical abilities, vision or hearing impairments and other medical needs, senior living offers the services and amenities that the elderly population needs.
How to help senior citizens downsize their homes
1. Create a System: It’s OK to let go.
As you begin the downsizing process, you might be wondering: How can I ask Mom and Dad to give up belongings that they cherish so deeply? By creating a system, you can simplify the space and organize their possessions.
David Ekerdt’s gerontology survey results show that 30 percent of people over the age of 70 have done nothing to reduce their belongings over the last year.
More often than not, your first step will be to declutter the space.
“For these folks, the problem isn’t denial – but rather, the extraordinary difficulty associated with giving up items that are so closely linked to their identities and their memories,” Ekerdt says.
Suggest donating, instead of discarding, certain items.
“If it’s a treasure or something they’d like to keep, but the new space can’t accommodate it, suggest keeping it in the family,” Diane Schmidt, moving expert, recommends. “It’s often easier to give away items if they are going to a good home.”
Local Goodwill locations and grandchildren may be more than willing to put your belongings to good use.
During the moving process, 32 percent of seniors fear change the most. Taking notes and pictures of items will allow you to recreate a similar setup in the new space – not to mention help you keep track of important documents and treasured items. Be as detailed as you can, from furniture arrangements to the placement family photos on the walls.
2. When downsizing, consider the senior citizen’s new space.
Whether the new location is a small apartment, assisted living or with another family member, plan where the items will go according to your available space.
- Amenities: What specific requests does your loved one have? Will they have physical needs or security measures? Plan the new space around these accommodations.
- Size: “If your loved one is relocating from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment, serious downsizing is necessary,” Schmidt notes . “Consider his or her new lifestyle. Will they be cooking and baking for large family meals after they move? If not, they won’t need their China for 12, the large turkey roasting pan, or the KitchenAid mixer.”
- Inventory. Is there realistic space for everything the senior wishes to keep? Personal documents, oversized items or other belongings that may not be suitable for the smaller space may be more suited for a storage unit.
3. Consider using downsizing and moving professionals.
Bruce Nemovitz, senior moving management expert, reports that one of the top reasons keeping seniors from moving is the fear that they won’t have a home for all of their belongings.
But what if they did?
During the downsizing process – even after decluttering and donating – you may need a place to store larger or personal items. Storage facilities and moving professionals can be a big help.
What to store in your storage unit:
- Memorabilia: A smaller space may not allow seniors to keep everything, but they should be allowed to hold onto sentimental items. A small storage unit can provide a safe place to store these for the time being, without forcing seniors to part with them.Remember, some items may require climate controlled storage.
- Oversized Items: Save space in the new living area by storing large electronics, outdoor equipment and unused vehicles. Storage unit rentals are available on a monthly basis, so temporary storage will be an option.
- Packing and Transition: Schmidt believes that working with professionals can ease the packing – and moving – process along tremendously.“Sometimes, it’s actually easier for elders to work with an outside party than with their children, especially when it comes to sorting and packing,” she notes. Storage unit facilities offer moving trucks to assist in transporting and relocating belongings. Many facilities may offer discounted prices for senior citizens, too.
Downsizing can be particularly wrenching for senior citizens, but it doesn’t have to be. With appropriate planning and organization, you and your loved one will have a hassle-free transition (and a much lighter load) in no time.
Do you have any best practices for downsizing senior citizens’ home? Tweet us your thoughts @LifeStorage.