How to Help Your Senior Relative Downsize

If you have an elderly relative who enjoys maintaining their independence, you are not alone. Many senior citizens are choosing to “age in place” rather than move into a nursing home or senior care facility — and this decision can help support their confidence, self-esteem, and overall mental health. However, in some cases, they may live in a house that is too large to maintain by themselves, particularly as they continue to grow older. This is why many younger family members are beginning to help their independent senior relatives downsize. Here are some ways you can help your elderly family member decide if downsizing is right for them, as well as strategies to make the move go as efficiently as possible.

How to Talk to Your Senior Relative About Downsizing

The first thing you should do is talk to your senior family member. While some people will become excited at the prospect of downsizing — after all, it can be an opportunity to move to a different part of the country, somewhere they have always wanted to live, with warm weather and clear skies — others will feel like you are intruding on their independence. Instead of being unnecessarily forceful, gently go over the reasons why you think downsizing is right for them. You may want to point out that they have been having difficulty cleaning the entire house or have recently been relying on restaurants, making their current kitchen setup unnecessary.  Downsizing can also be a reason for them to move closer to their younger family members, so that help can be offered if necessary.

Help Them Find the Right House

Next, you’ll have to find the right house for their needs. Talk to your loved one about what they’d like in a house. Do they want a large patio where they can sit outside and enjoy the sun, or do they prefer a room they can use as a library? Do some research online to find the types of houses that meet their preferences and location and size requirements while also falling on or under their budget. Location is a major factor in determining the price of a house; for instance, homes in Washington, DC, have sold for an average price of $571,000 in the last month.

Go Through Their Things Together

The next stumbling block you may experience is a getting rid of their possessions. Many seniors have a large number of mementos and knick-knacks they have collected over the years. Even if it all looks like clutter to you, to your senior, each item may represent a particular memory or experience. This is why it is often extremely difficult for seniors to go through their things.  However, make it clear to them that reducing clutter doesn’t mean they are getting rid of their memories. Pack up the most important keepsakes to take along. For others, you may be able to take a picture. Larger items can be sold or given away to other family members.

Enlist Help on Moving Day

To make the moving process go smoothly, enlist as much help as you can. If they are moving a short distance away, or to be closer to you, you may not need to hire a team of movers. Family and friends can help pack everything up and transport it to their new home, saving your loved one the expense. However, if they are moving across the country, a team of movers can help save gas money and cut down on the stress of a large-scale move.

Even if your senior relative has lived in their current large home for over a decade, it is frequently in their best interests that they downsize. Downsizing often helps seniors experience a higher quality of life at a lower overall cost.

Michael is with Elder Freedom, an organization of advocates working for the older adults of our community. Their mission is to help locate resources, events and engagement opportunities to help enrich the lives of seniors.

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