When it comes to maintaining a house, garden, garage and extra rooms, there are a lot of chores involved. As parents get older, this becomes harder, and even impossible as age and disability slow them down.  In many cases, a move makes sense for the simple fact that downsizing will free up mom or dad’s time a lot so they can do more of the things they love, like travel, tennis, dining out or playing bocci ball in the park with friends.

Whatever the reasons, many seniors and their families arrive at the decision that it’s time to move. The decision to leave a family home can be a hard one, but it makes good sense for many senior parents to relocate to a condo or senior living facility where the chores are minimal and the living is easier. If you’re the adult child of aging parents, you may have some responsibilities to help your parents with the move, or just want to help them out. Here are a few things that you can do to make that big move a bit easier for all.

Finding Affordable New Housing For Mom And Dad

seniors and young family enjoy outdoors at the family home

Moving into a less demanding living space is meant to improve the quality of seniors’ lives. Everyone wants to make sure the loved ones find a quality place they enjoy being and that meets their expectations. This presents a tremendous opportunity for children to give back to their parents. No one knows family like family and adult children can bring their knowledge about parents to bear in doing some of the legwork, like vetting a condo community or assisted living facility.  

For seniors, who have built up memories in a single place, or who are facing a completely different style of living, such as a senior living facility, moving can be an emotional time. Having children there to support aging parents as they prepare to move, helping with or handling decisions, and collectively giving the old home a good send off will go a long way to making the move a happier one for your senior loved ones.

Choosing a Senior Residence

young woman helping senior parent using tablet computer

The biggest factors in senior moves are choosing the new residence and managing moving and living costs. Decide what living situations will fit your parents best, allowing for the inevitable aging that will happen in the coming years. Consider the costs and fees against your parents’ finances. Will they rent or buy?  Remember, condos generally charge monthly Homeowner’s Association fees, as do most mobile home parks. These fees can increase from year to year. Understand exactly what these fees cover and whether there are additional or seasonal costs that come with living in the community.

Senior living facilities generally have straightforward agreements. Nevertheless, always read the fine print. Paying $2,000-$3,000 or more per month for a living space might not include personal care and there may be other fees beyond the basic monthly bills. Financial stability in retirement is imperative for most seniors who live on fixed incomes and limited savings, so help your parents prepare a budget they can live with.

It’s not uncommon for people to take nutritional needs for granted. Seniors may lose the ability to drive at some point, which limits their ability to grocery shop. If a senior facility provides a nutritional and enjoyable menu, this may not be a huge issue. But if seniors opt for condo living, it’s important that nearby markets make deliveries.

Along with basic financial and nutritional care, seniors and their families would do well to explore the things that will make the change a positive one. Visit the potential living situations with your parents before making a decision and see how they react to it. After all, whether they will live independently or in a community, they will need to be happy in the environment, the size and layout, the amenities within the community (such as assisted-living dining facilities or condo association gym or club house) and services nearby, and of course with the community of people they will be living with.

Declutter: Downsizing Family-style

Let’s face it.  We all have a lot of stuff. As the years go on, we need bigger homes to put it in. By the time the kids are grown and it’s time to downsize, there’s usually a lot of accumulated belongings to deal with.  This is one place where the children can help out.  Not only is sorting through all the things a lot of work, but since the kids are the ones who will probably inherit the family stuff, they are probably the best choice for deciding what to keep and what to let go.  

declutter (keep, recycle, trash, sell, donate - handwriting on color sticky notes

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One great way to clear the closets, playroom and garage is to get all the family together for a pizza party. Have boxes on hand for packing items to keep. Each family member gets an area to go through and sort all the items into categories. Items are moved into piles according to their destiny. Set up areas for the following:

  • Keep and move: it’s going to the new place. If boxes are on hand, these can be packed and labeled. Note on important papers: Carefully set aside important family papers, birth and marriage certificates, passports, car and home titles and so on, and hand carry those to the new place, or let one of the children safeguard them.
  • Keep and hand down: These items have sentimental value to members of the family, and mom and dad are ok to part with them or don’t have the space. It can be fun to negotiate and divide up these cherished items, a chance to relive family memories and good times together.
  • Sell: If anyone is an eBay or Craigslist fan, any valuables that no one wants can be put here to sell online later.
  • Donate: Unwanted items in good condition can be donated to Goodwill, Salvation Army or other charities.
  • Recycle: Recyclable items made of wood, glass, paper, plastic and so on can go here, as can items that need to be disposed of carefully (batteries, toner cartridge, CRT TVs, etc.). Collect it all and sort it later with a plan for getting rid of it.
  • Shred: Old tax returns, bills and other unneeded paper records can go here for shredding. Most towns have a local drop-off shredding service company if you have a lot to get rid of.
  • Trash: totally useless items that can’t fit into any other category.

Other things to keep in mind as you decide how to handle items from your parents’ home:

  • Note on Furniture: When it comes to furniture, the first thing to do is to decide what will be needed in the new residence, if anything. Assisted living facilities, for example, may come partially or even fully furnished, so be sure you are clear on the space situation in the new location. Draw up the new space and measure out how and where things will fit comfortably. Putting it on paper gives parents and families an opportunity to make smart decisions.
  • Can’t Decide or Live Without It: We all have things that involve strong emotional attachment. So if there’s no immediate “home” for a cherished item, look into self-storage. For example, beloved children’s furniture might be in good condition, yet no one needs any of it immediately. A modest self-storage space may fit into the monthly budget and allow more time for these items to be dealt with. Later, once the parents are settled, or as family circumstances change – like the arrival of a grandchild who will need that baby furniture – the items can be moved out.

Make sure Mom and Dad have a say in what goes where in the above. After all, it’s their stuff.  If they want to hold onto too much, gently tell them they don’t have room to take it all with them, but you can add those items to the storage facility to be dealt with later.

Moving Solutions For Senior Parents

Packing and moving seniors can be a big undertaking. Allow time and space for your parents to take a last walk through the old place and make last minute decisions. Then, if they agree, drop your parents off somewhere nice for the day, and take care of the move for them if you can.

Father And Adult Son Take A Break With Pizza On Moving Day

If there’s not much to move, you can rent a moving van and handle the move among you and your siblings. Of course, that’s a lot to ask for the family who have busy lives, too. And, moving can be physically difficult, especially involving handling appliances, dealing with fragile and delicate items, moving large pieces of furniture, etc.  In those cases, it might be worth hiring professional movers to handle the move. The upside to hiring professional movers is that they do this every day and are generally good at it. Pros understand how to pack and transport fragile items and have the tools to move heavy furniture without causing damage. Paying for this service removes hours of hard work and takes an enormous amount of stress out of moving your parents.  Most movers can also help with packing as well as moving and transporting your parents belongings. Some will even help with runs to charity and recycle drop-off points. Be sure to ask and find out the many ways they can help make your job easier.

At the end of the day, working with senior parents to move into a new residence that will ensure their continued health and happiness can be a positive experience. Moving is an adventure, no matter how or when you move.  And, when moving your senior parents, it’s not just a chore. Moving can be a time for families to come together.

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