Guest Contributor Marnie Dawson, C-SMM, Dawson Relocation Services
Here are 4 helpful tips from an expert on moving seniors that will help make the move to a senior community easier. We are often unaware of how attached we become to our homes—and their contents—until it’s time to move. This can be especially true for seniors who have been living in their current homes for the past 30 or 40 years and must suddenly sort through a lifetime of possessions in just a few weeks. In these cases, moving is not just a physical process, but an emotional one as well.
- Keep the Senior Involved in Decision Making: Helping a senior move involves a number of tasks including planning the layout of the new home, downsizing, and sorting through possessions and furniture. During each task, it’s important to keep the senior involved in decision-making. Anyone who has a say in their own moving processes fares better after their moves than those who don’t. Allowing their voices, concerns and wishes to be heard provides seniors with a sense of control, which carries over to a sense of well-being in their new homes.
- Start with the physical plan of the new space: Obtain or create a floor plan of the new home including measurements. Involving the senior in this task is critical as it will help them envision a place in which they will be comfortable living. Ask which pieces of furniture they would most like to have in their new space, and then determine which pieces of furniture will actually fit. Try to arrange the new space similarly so that it feels like the old home. Imagine how much more familiar and safer things will feel when the nightstand is arranged the way it always has been and the heirloom table is still in the living room next to the recliner.
- Sorting Items: Once a draft of the physical space is created, it’s time to sort and evaluate items in the current home. Start with a single drawer, a closet or a room to which there is little sentimental attachment. This will help both of you ease into the sorting process. Physically pull things out of drawers and closets and set them out to view. Ask questions to help find a new home for the item. Will this fit in the new space? Can the item go to a family member or good friend? Does it have resale value? Can it be donated? It’s best to spread out the sorting process over a few weeks as it is easy to get overwhelmed.
- Remember to be kind and find patience: Making these decisions can be emotionally painful and physically challenging. Feel the emotions that a particular item stirs up. Use creativity to help preserve the memory of items that cannot be taken to the new home. Photograph the quilt collection that will be donated, record the stories about an item, or create a scrapbook of important family papers and photos.
Because of the emotional and physical aspects inherent in preparing for a move, it can be helpful to work with a neutral third party such as a Senior Move Manager. These professionals have the experience, availability, organizational skills and resources to make the move run efficiently. Most importantly, they have the know-how and objectivity to help with the very emotional process of sorting through possessions. Working with a Senior Move Manager can make the entire moving process less taxing on both you and the senior.