September 30th, 2011 at 9:48 am
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Older adults and downsizing: what to expect

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Older adults make the decision to downsize for a number of reasons–from their house becoming too difficult to maintain to the inability to navigate the house safely. Every time I think about packing up our home of 34 years, the task seems like a major project.

When downsizing, consider all the details and the complexity of the decisions to be made. If the older adult or couple needs some assistance, it is important for all involved to be aware this move is going to require some sensitivity to the situation–particularly if this is not a move that a person is ready to make or circumstances dictate it happens with little notice.

Older adults and downsizing: trust

Some of my clients, who recently moved, related how frustrating the experience was and how there were times they just went along with decisions others were making for them just to be done with it. In some cases, what they thought they were agreeing to in price or arrangements was not what was delivered.

In turn, if your loved one is dealing with others regarding the move, such as Realtors or furniture movers, it is important someone they trust is present for any conversations that take place and to review any documents.

Older adults and downsizing: challenges

Downsizing is not simple. Selling a house, finding another place to live, sorting out a home after decades of living there, moving and reorganizing are difficult tasks. I’m sure none of use would enjoy the process. Even with support and guidance from family and friends, older adults may begin to feel overwhelmed, confused and upset. As many older adults are used to routine, getting out of the comfort zone is challenging at best.

For example, I spent more than a week with my mom after she moved from an apartment to an assisted living facility. Even though there were fewer daily responsibilities in that small space, she still had issues organizing what she had brought with her. Simply finding the wrapping paper or the supplies she needed for correspondence was frustrating for her at first.

Older adults and downsizing: planning

Creating a plan is the first step when it comes to preparing an older adult to downsize and move from their home. Families can benefit from a plan that outlines each individual step as well as keeps the older adult(s) involved with decision making as much as possible. If you are out of town, you may want to rely on the assistance of a geriatric care manager to guide the process. Hiring a company to help with the packing, moving and setting up the new home can be helpful as well.

In the end, you should be sensitive to the older adult as they are leaving a familiar setting, a familiar neighborhood and a familiar way of life. It can be painful to let go of yesterday. Take the time to set the stage for what will happen over the next days, weeks and months ahead. Doing so can help the transition process.

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2 Comments to “Older adults and downsizing: what to expect”

  1. Kevin

    Having to leave their home when a person does not understand the reason for a move is a real challenge. Missing their favorite items which may not seem important at the time of the move makes it even harder. Thanks for your insight on the trust issue.


  2. Caring for Aging Parents

    Excellent advice. Downsizing can be a stressful and challenging task – especially if the person moving is not physically or cognitively capable of deciding what to keep, what to give away (and to who) and what to throw out.
    The stress also does not end when the move is over… it will take time for the senior to adjust to the move. Trust is very important as they may question why they moved or why they do not have certain items.
    Thanks for sharing!

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