How to Downsize to Move to Senior Living: Advice for Northern Michigan Caregivers

Posted at Jun 20, 2014 | 120 Comments

Downsizing for Senior Living

Dear Sandy:

I read your column in May when you talked about selling a parent’s home after they move to a retirement community instead of beforehand. We decided to go that route with our mother. It will make her budget tight until the house is sold, but your advice made sense. Having people in and out of the house for showings seems like it would be difficult for her. My question is how do we figure out what to take with her to assisted living and what should stay behind? She has a fairly large home now that she has lived in for 47 years, but her assisted living apartment isn’t very big. Where do we start? HELP!

Rhonda in Roscommon, Michigan

Dear Rhonda:

We hear that question from almost every family we work with who is moving to a retirement community. What we overwhelmingly find is that our country’s older generation didn’t move very much. Many of them have been in the same home for decades. In fact, we have had seniors move to our communities who were living in the same home they grew up in! People accumulate a lot of treasures living in a home for that many years. It can make downsizing a real challenge for adult children.

What I would suggest you do is the following:

  1. Get a copy of the floor plan of her new apartment from the senior living community. If it doesn’t have room dimensions on it, measure and label it on your own. That makes it easier to measure her furniture to see if it will fit.
  2. Find out if the assisted living community offers any additional storage. Some have lockers available for storage for off-season clothing and holiday decorations.
  3. Try to observe how and where your mother spends most of her time. You will probably find that even though her home is large, she spends most of her day in a few rooms. What items from those rooms does she use? Are they pieces of furniture that will fit in her new apartment?
  4. Most families want to help an aging loved one make their new independent or assisted living apartment feel like home. Typically that means bringing some of their wall art and other decorative items with them on the move. Talk with your mother about which ones mean the most to her and plan to bring those.
  5. Finally, remember that in moving her before the house is sold, you have some flexibility. You can start out by taking fewer items and then bringing more once she is settled and you see how much space she still has available.

I hope this helps, Rhonda! Best of luck to your family during this transition.



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