Clutter in a Home

Caring For Your Loved Ones: A Guide For Helping Seniors Downsize

Based on statistics from Merrill Lynch, roughly 51% of retirees over the age of 50 will move into a smaller home after retirement. However, roughly 64% of seniors say that they would like to stay in their current homes. Moves occur for a lot of reasons. Perhaps seniors want to be closer to family or transition to a retirement community. They might also just want to decrease the amount of upkeep and maintenance they have to do in a larger home. Whatever the reason, moving from a larger home to a smaller one can be a difficult change for many older adults. Downsizing can have a lot of benefits, and helping seniors downsize might be a good way for loved ones to support senior family members during this process. Roulet Law Firm, P.A. may be able to help with the legal implications of downsizing for families, including incorporating some items into estate planning. Call our Minnetonka, MN office at (763) 420-5087 or our Venice, FL office at (941) 909-4644 today to learn more about our services.

At What Age Do Most Seniors Downsize?

Most seniors will downsize after they retire, which can vary between 50 to 70 years old. However, many people over the age of 60 report that they have trouble keeping up with the maintenance demands of their homes. As loved ones age, it gets harder to do household chores such as yard work and maintaining storage items. Even something as simple as cleaning the bathroom or doing the dishes can be challenging for individuals as they age. In many situations, seniors may look for a location with fewer bedrooms and bathrooms simply so they can spend less time dusting and more time with family and friends.

Finances might also impact the decision to downsize. If the senior cannot keep up with monthly bills on their own, such as the mortgage and utility expenses, it might be time to make a move. In addition, not every home will work well for an aging individual. Houses with several stories or just one large bathroom on the second floor, for example, will not be very conducive to aging in place.

What Helps Elderly People Downsize?

Downsizing can be extremely emotionally difficult for individuals and families. The downsizing transition can signify much more than wanting to clean less. It can be a sign of a beginning that is heading toward an end. That realization can be depressing and overwhelming for many seniors. It can trigger grief, anxiety, and sadness.

However, if the move itself goes well, those feelings can often be addressed faster and easier, so the senior can continue to live out their golden years in peace and happiness. When downsizing is presented as a new adventure and a new chapter of life, it can be easier to cope with and accept. Part of that journey is making a choice. Starting the downsizing process at a younger age often helps elderly people feel like they are making a conscious choice to downsize rather than being forced. For instance, an individual who starts downsizing at 60 likely has more time and involvement compared to someone who is 80 and has to downsize out of necessity.

How Do You Declutter a Senior’s Home?

When seniors make a move to downsize, they are often unsure where to start. Friends and loved ones can help with this process by providing a rational sounding board about what to keep and what should go. Helping seniors downsize means more than just decluttering stuff, however. It also means being there for them emotionally as they go through this process. At the same time, you might also want to consider talking to loved ones about the legal aspect of aging, including medical decisions and estate planning. Roulet Law Firm, P.A. may be able to help answer questions as you make legal and financial decisions during this process.

Decluttering can be a great time to learn more about a loved one and walk through fond memories. Loved ones can use these tips to get the process started.

  1. Start the Process Early.

Rushing the decluttering process can be stressful for seniors. Be sure that the process begins long before the senior is ready to make a move. Forcing a quick change can result in anxiety and will make the entire move harder and more stressful. Downsizing is already a difficult process for many people, but it can be even more intimidating if it is rushed.

Starting early also gives seniors time to think about what items they really want to keep and which items could be donated or thrown out. It also gives them time to ruminate on fond memories of the past, which may be why they were holding on to the item at all. Decluttering is a process that takes a lot of time and emotional effort. Work through it room by room at an even pace over time.

  1. Start with Non-Sentimental Items.

Things that have emotional significance are the most difficult to part with, so you may want to leave them until later in the decluttering process. Starting with items that do not matter as much emotionally, or have no sentimental value, will help loved ones work on their decluttering “muscles” before they have to tackle emotionally charged items.

  1. Know Where You Are Going.

If the senior is not sure where they are going, it can be difficult to know what they will need when they get there. For instance, if they are moving to an assisted living facility, they may not need nearly as many kitchen gadgets or even much of their furniture. However, if they are simply moving to a smaller condo or apartment, they might want to keep all of those items. While decluttering for the sake of a “someday move” has some value, it can help a senior to know the purpose of decluttering to stay motivated and focused.

Walking with a senior through this process means allowing them to go through their things slowly and with care if that is the approach they want to take. Be patient and kind through this process, but also be practical and logical as well.

Learn More About Estate Planning from Roulet Law, P.A.

Downsizing and estate planning often go hand in hand. As seniors think about their physical items, they may also start considering who they would like to have those items after they pass. As a result, helping seniors downsize might also lead to helping seniors work through the estate planning process, whether that is for the first time or updating their current plan. Roulet Law, P.A. may be able to help your loved one with this process. Contact us by calling our Minnetonka, Minnesota office at (763) 420-5087 or our Venice, Florida office at (941) 909-4644 for estate planning assistance in Minnesota and Florida.

And, if you would like to learn how to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for your family to manage your affairs during incapacity and after passing, while ensuring your assets only go to whom you want and how you want, click here to register for our FREE online masterclass.

And, if you would like to learn how to protect your home and life savings from long-term care and nursing home costs, click here to download our FREE guide Save our Home: How to Protect Your Home and Life Savings From Long-Term Care and Nursing Home Costs.

Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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