Almost everyone who completes a move and settles into their new place sighs and says, “That’s the last time I’m moving.”
There’s no research to prove that. But who doesn’t dread moving?
It’s stressful from start to finish. And for older people, it’s even tougher.
They’ve got to prune their belongings, hire and manage movers and unpack in their new home. These tasks are emotionally and physically draining.
“Moving when you’re 65 and above is usually not a welcome event,” said Tiffiny Lutz, marketing director at Caring Transitions, a Cincinnati-based firm that manages moves for seniors.
For older retirees, moving often becomes an unwanted, anxiety-inducing necessity. A health scare, the loss of a spouse or loss of mobility may have forced their hand.
Leaving familiar surroundings is hard enough. The fact that they’re likely moving from a comfortable house to a much smaller space creates another layer of difficulty and sadness.
“They may have to get rid of a lot of their stuff,” Lutz said. “And their stuff relates to their memories. There are emotional aspects of letting go of things.”
Move managers that specialize in senior relocation often help with downsizing. They can arrange auctions and estate sales as well as enlist organizations that accept donations and haul away belongings.
Preparing to leave a longtime residence comes with some dreary tasks. The average household accumulates more than 20 pounds of hazardous waste every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So contacting your county or city to learn about waste disposal (what they accept, drop-off hours, cost, etc.) is one of the first to-do items.
It’s not easy for some seniors to part with their contents. Reframing the downsizing process in positive terms can help.
“We will help you find a new home for your treasures and help them live on,” Lutz likes to say to allay a customer’s concerns.
Her team pays attention to the vocabulary they use. For example, they replace “downsizing” with “right sizing.”
“We tell seniors their heating bills will be lower, their maintenance will be easier,” she said. Focusing on the benefits of the move—no more worrying about snow removal or spending long hours cleaning the house—can resonate with older folks.
Timelines are essential when planning a move. Develop a checklist about 60 days before a planned move. If you hire a company that specializes in moving seniors, you’ll probably receive a planning document that guides you every step of the way.
“A packing timeline is critical because you have to map out space planning of your new place and identify what will fit and what won’t fit,” Lutz said. From there, you can separate what you need to pack in boxes and what you will not bring with you.
At least two months before a move, you’ll want to get serious about pruning your stuff and reviewing the floor plan of where you’ll live. You may also want to begin shopping for move managers or movers, getting quotes and researching their service.
Most move managers help with planning and monitor every stage of the relocation process. While they do not drive the trucks, they will usually recommend movers that they work with regularly.
About one month before a move, you’ll want to choose a moving company and begin packing in earnest. Take care of logistical items such as completing change-of-address forms and contacting utilities to end service on your move date.
It’s in these last few weeks as the move nears that seniors may struggle to part with items that hold sentimental value. Family members, friends and move managers can provide support during this difficult time.
“Often, seniors want to keep everything,” Lutz said. “They’ll say, ‘I’ll just put it in storage.’ We want to avoid that.”
She finds that they rarely go back to their storage unit. And they incur an ongoing storage bill that they may come to regret.
Again, Lutz puts a positive spin on a common source of anxiety.
“Moving can be a good experience because you are freeing yourself to try something new,” she said. “It can be a refreshing experience.”