Every year thousands of older adults and seniors face the decision of whether to downsize to smaller living accommodations or to stay in their existing homes. For some the decision to downsize is made for them due to serious illness or perhaps the death of a loved one. Sometimes the comfort and safety of people comes into play. But regardless of the reason, the upheaval and relocation can be traumatic. My experience in this industry has clearly indicated that it is even more so for seniors.
I received a call from a gentleman whose mother was living alone and had recently injured her leg falling over piles of newspapers that she had collected. He was concerned for her health and safety due to the amount of belongings and clutter that she had accumulated. He wanted to move her into a condominium and was looking for assistance in helping to sort through a lifetime of her possessions.
Safety is usually the first thought that comes into mind when considering downsizing. Home location and its construction are very important issue to consider. A few questions you may want to ask yourself are: (i) is the home easy to get around in? (ii) can the maintenance of the home be easily managed by the occupant? (iii) how close is the home to local shopping centres and banks?
Limitations regarding the physical abilities of the people in the home are also relevant and need to be considered. Can basic personal hygiene be handled? What about manoeuvrability in and out of the bathtub or shower? What about memory issues as it relates to safety? Leaving a burner lit on the stove or a pot boiling over can be a potentially dangerous situation.
Let the idea of downsizing marinate.
If you know an older adult or senior who should consider downsizing, it’s best that you introduce them to the idea slowly. Many well-meaning family members may push too hard resulting in more resistance. Sometimes it’s helpful to suggest to your parents that they may wish to make the decision of moving to a smaller home when they still can. Sometimes illness or injury, like that of my client, ends up making the decision for you and you are then forced to move when perhaps you don’t feel ready.
Emotions play a role.
Often times adult children don’t play an active role in the downsizing process due to other family and work obligations. The stress and tension can be very high for all members of the family and often times it’s best to call and hire an experienced professional organizer to assist and make the process run smoothly and without trauma. In addition, adult children often feel a lot of turmoil when long time family possessions are sorted and pared down. I have personally seen the upheaval of emotions cause conflicts among family when these conflicts could easily have been minimized by initiating a few simple organizing and downsizing strategies to be prepared.
For me, working with older adults and seniors is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work. I don’t just work for my clients, but with them, side by side, hands on coaching, motivating and encouraging. Working collaboratively I have helped clients make decisions on what to keep, what to pass on to family or others, and what to be discarded.
One way I like to encourage and motivate my clients is to suggest that the preparation of a move to a smaller home is the first step of a fresh start, a new chapter in their lives and perhaps an even greater adventure! Preparation is key to a successful downsize so that precious memories can still be treasured while streamlining for a simpler and more efficient lifestyle.