Downsizing can be a mixed bag for seniors. Choosing which belongings gathered over the course of a lifetime to get rid of can be emotionally overwhelming — and some people need emotional support to get through the process. Done systematically and with consideration, downsizing can be a liberating experience for older adults, especially if they’ve decided it’s time to transition to a smaller, more manageable home. When considered within the larger framework of finding a new home and planning a move, downsizing not only makes sense, but it can also give a bereaved or uncertain senior citizen a new lease on life.
For real estate agents who are helping seniors find a new, smaller home, it’s important to focus on the positives and address the negatives. Letting them know you know what they’re facing — good and bad, physically and emotionally — will help all of you in your search for a place where they can grow old safely and comfortably. Start with these tips.
Where to Live
Finding a more suitable living space depends to a very great extent on your client’s condition and living requirements. If they have mobility restrictions or memory or cognitive problems, the search should include special access arrangements and modifications aimed at making day-to-day activities as easy as possible in their new house, apartment, assisted living, or nursing facility living space.
Once their needs have been assessed, you can begin working to find a suitable home in terms of size, layout, and special features. Finding a new home that checks all the “must-haves” off the list will make them feel better about downsizing. If they have Alzheimer’s, make sure their new environment is safe and easy to move around in, with no tripping hazards and plenty of lighting.
Start Right Away
As a real estate agent, your job technically ends the day you finalize the purchase or rental of a new home. But if you want to create client relationships that last — and that result in referrals from happy customers — take it a step further. Suggest that your client implement a downsizing plan, and help them get started right away. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to deal with the finality of it. Here are some tips you can share with them.
- Establish a system and follow it to the letter. Once you’ve decided on a course of action, don’t waver from it; otherwise, you might be tempted to put it all aside. Bear in mind that it’s usually best to start with smaller rooms with less “stuff,” such as a linen closet or laundry room, spaces with objects that probably don’t have quite as much emotional meaning to you as other parts of the house.
- Ask a friend or family member to help you work through the bedroom, dining room, or storage space, such as the basement, crawl space, or garage. Rooms with more volume often require an extra set of hands and a loving, supportive voice. It’s a difficult process, but remember how much smoother the move will go and that it’ll be easier to lead a fulfilling life with more space and freedom, as well as fewer physical burdens to worry about.
- Set a rule: If you haven’t used something within the past year, it goes to recycling, consignment, a family member or into the trash. Be discriminating when it comes to deciding about furniture that’s getting old and ragged, and if you’ve had the same mattress for at least seven years it’s probably time to get yourself a nice new one, a highly regarded brand with plenty of positive online reviews.
Once they’ve gotten through downsizing, the next step in the transition to a new life is the move itself. As a real estate agent, you may want to consider partnering with a senior move manager. These experts have the experience making a difficult experience as painless as possible for older adults. By getting to know some of the consultants in your area, you can make referrals in the best interests of your client and build valuable working relationships with fellow professionals.
If, for any reason, you would rather not engage in partnerships, encourage your clients to take great care when hiring movers and other contractors during the process. As a first step, they should always read online reviews about moving companies, and look for one that has experience working with seniors.
Lastly, don’t forget to be patient during this difficult transitional period. Remember, an older adult who’s leaving a home of many years is leaving behind a truckload of happy memories. It’s bound to be an emotional roller coaster, and you can help them navigate the process.
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