Should My Parent Downsize or Stay in Their Current Home?

When your parent reaches a certain age, their current home may begin to feel like it’s too big for them. Keeping it clean and maintained is becoming a hassle. If they’re widowed, the absence of their partner may make the place feel especially empty.

On the other hand, they don’t want to lose the things that come with their current home: memories, neighbours, a kitchen they’ve renovated just so, or maybe a cozy backyard.

They’re undecided. And when you’re undecided, the simplest thing is to do nothing. Stay put. Without a plan.

That’s not to say that staying put – or aging in place – is necessarily a bad choice. But only if the pros and cons have been properly considered.

The pros and cons of aging in place

Pros

  • Current home is familiar

  • No need to undertake a major move or get rid of some of their belongings

  • Can maintain connections with neighbours

  • Don’t have to give up existing features (e.g. own front door, backyard, access to local green space)

  • Can access home care and community services if support needed

Cons

  • Continued cleaning and upkeep may be more than your parent can handle

  • If some belongings aren’t let go of now, may become a huge task for you later if your parent is forced to move due to a health crisis or passes away

  • If your parent’s mobility decreases, parts of current home may become inaccessible/unsafe

  • Home care and community services may prove insufficient/expensive if your parent’s health changes significantly

If your parent goes with this option 

Aging in place may be a good option for your parent right now, but their health could change suddenly. If that happens, they may be forced to scramble to find a suitable new place to live. And if they’re in the middle of a health crisis, that responsibility may fall to you. Not only that, you may find yourself thinning out their belongings for them, a potentially mammoth task, particularly if it has to be done in short order. 

One of the best things your parent can do is develop a Plan B. Even though they may have decided to age in place, they can still look at options for a new home such as condos, life-lease properties, or retirement communities. That way, if the time does come to move, they won’t be starting their search from scratch and feeling panicked about it. And if you’re acting on their behalf, you’ll have a clear idea of their preferences.

You may also want to encourage them to begin going through their “stuff” now. There’s no need to wait. Going through a house full of things isn’t quite so overwhelming if you pace yourself and do a little bit at a time over several months. A lot of people feel relieved after doing it. And that way, should you have to help your parent move in the future, your task won’t be quite so daunting.

The pros and cons of downsizing

Pros 

  • Can feel renewing – gets your parent to focus on what’s important in their life

  • Moving may open up a whole new set of opportunities – to make new friends, to take part in new activities

  • A smaller space is usually easier to take care of. Depending upon where they move, homemaking and property maintenance services may even be included.

  • If they move to a community where health monitoring is offered, less worry for you that they might have a health episode (e.g. fall) that goes unnoticed

Cons

  • There’s risk involved in moving to a new place – giving up what you know for the unfamiliar – uncertainty of “what if this new place doesn’t work out?”

  • The whole process of deciding what belongings you can take with you and what you need to get rid of can take a lot of emotional energy

  • If your parent is moving to a congregate setting like an apartment, there’s less privacy than in a single-family home

  • They may be uncertain whether the sale of their current home will give them enough to cover future living expenses

If your parent goes with this option

Moving later in life is more complicated than moving when you’re younger. There are a lot more things to consider. Your parent might want to consider getting a professional to help them figure where they want to live. A realtor who focuses on seniors can be a good choice. Look for one with an ASA designation – Accredited Senior Agent.

If you are looking to get everything in one place, our Assisted Living Planner is a great place to start.

If your parent is looking for a place in Ottawa, we can help. At Tea and Toast, we have an intimate knowledge of retirement communities in the area (beyond what even ASA realtors have) and can help them quickly narrow down which ones might best suit their preferences. It will save them – and possibly you – a lot of time trying to investigate all the options out there yourself. 

Contact us. We’d be happy to provide a free consultation.

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