4 Ways to Help Your Aging Parent Downsize

If your aging parents are facing the prospect of downsizing to a retirement home, you may want to take a moment to consider that moving when you’re over seventy isn’t as simple as moving in your twenties. You have a lot more stuff. It will involve days and days of going through personal items, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. It’s not something the average person looks forward to. But if you don’t have the stamina or flexibility you used to, it can be overwhelming. 

It’s not just hard physical work. It’s hard emotional work. That’s because memories have a way of attaching themselves to your stuff. Letting go of certain things may feel like saying goodbye to a piece of your younger self. (And face it: you probably have mixed feelings of letting go of your childhood home as well, and your parents know that.)

Just the thought of culling a lifetime’s worth of belongings can stop people in their tracks. In fact, it may cause some seniors to put off moving indefinitely, even if they know downsizing would be good for them.

So, if you’re trying to convince your parent to make a move, how do you get them past this emotional roadblock? How do you get them unstuck?

1. Revisit the upside of downsizing

Remind them that moving out of the family home can reduce their stress and make life simpler. Who needs the hassles of housework and property maintenance if there’s someone else who can take care of them in a new place? 

And think of the money they’ll free up by selling their home. They can spend some of it doing things they’ve always wanted to do in their retirement. Or they can spend it on their grandkids. Or set up an emergency fund.

2. Work up to selling their home

If the idea of selling their house is giving them pause, then consider finding a real estate agent who specializes in working with seniors and understands the emotions they’re likely experiencing. 

3. Help them sort through their stuff

Encourage them to start identifying stuff in their house that they haven’t touched in years. In this category, they’ll probably find things that are relatively easy to get rid of. Over the course of several weeks, gradually help them sort their belongings into four categories: keep, give, sell, trash. Give them time to sort through items that are precious to them. 

If they’re sentimentally attached to more items than they can reasonably move into a smaller place, we have a few suggestions:

Look into Keepsake Photography - take photos of the cherished items and put them into an album. Photos of things such as: the house or a favourite furniture piece.

Consider enlisting help. That may be in the form of a friend or relative – someone who can help them with the sorting but also hold them accountable. Maybe that someone is you. Making a game out of the process may help. Or deciding ahead of time the number of boxes of stuff that will fit into a new place. Once the boxes are filled, that’s it.

Additionally, if they are moving to a retirement home, grab the layout which will give you a good idea of what will fit.  Don’t forget to take responsibility for old items they may have been storing for you since you left home years ago. Professional movers who specialize in working with seniors can be a help here as well. 

4. Get them help to find a new home that’s right for them

There’s a wide variety of senior living options in the Ottawa area, but identifying a place that will work for them can be a complicated process. Whether they’re looking for a community that will support their active lifestyle or one that offers a meal plan, help with daily activities, and health monitoring, senior living advisors can save them (and you) a lot of time and grief finding a new home. At Tea and Toast, we offer retirement home search and navigation for free.

In the meantime, you may also find our best selling book: Breadcrumbs: Piecing together the retirement living industry, helpful. There are many stories of families who have sat right where you are. Learn about their strategies and the process they went though. 

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