After a recent talk I gave at a retirement community, a guest came up to me and said he knows he wants to move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), but the prospect of downsizing just feels so daunting to him. He explained that he has over 10 acres of land, a few animals, a good-sized house, and so on. He was overwhelmed by where to start, he explained, and rhetorically asked, “How do I go from that to a 1,500 square foot apartment?”
I often hear variations on this same sentiment. While most people may not have the acreage and the large home that this man is contending with, in many ways, his downsizing situation isn’t too different from anyone else’s.
The mental obstacles of downsizing
Moving is never a simple proposition. There are countless tasks that must be checked off the to-do list and sometimes-complex logistics that must be coordinated. Downsizing — moving to a smaller home that cannot possibly accommodate all of your current possessions — adds an additional complexity to the situation.
The emotional barriers to downsizing
When dealing with the emotional challenges of making the move to a CCRC, the stakes are high. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this is a life-changing decision that will impact the senior for the rest of their life. It’s completely understandable that people may be feeling anxious, depressed, unsure, stressed, sad, and/or overwhelmed.
Weighing the hassles and heartburn of downsizing
For these reasons (and other reasons as well, such as concerns about running out of savings, etc.), it can be tempting to put off a CCRC move to another day, another year, some date in the future when you think you will attain the proper level of “readiness.” Or it could be that the daunting task of downsizing is enough for some people to throw in the towel on the prospect of ever moving to a CCRC and instead decide to age in place in their current home.
There is no minimizing the fact that downsizing — letting go of beloved and prized possessions — and making the move to a CCRC is a big change, and that point should never be discounted. There are countless articles and books written on both the practical matters associated with the downsizing process as well as on the topic of the emotions tied to this activity. Just Google “difficulty of downsizing” and you’ll get nearly 1 million results!
Solutions to address the hinderances to downsizing
Thankfully, there are more and more resources available to assist seniors with the downsizing process.
For example, senior move managers will help take the reins of the entire downsizing and moving process. They act as project managers and personal organizers, helping seniors sort through their belongings, and then make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of.
There are of course professional moving companies who, with very little prep work required on your part, can be hired to pack all of your possessions, load them into the moving truck, and then unload them in your new home, putting furniture in the right spot and even setting up beds. Many of these moving companies also will pick up the empty boxes once you’re unpacked in your new home.
Real estate professionals who have obtained a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) designation have special training on issues and concerns related to older home buyers and sellers. A senior’s home is likely their most valued and valuable asset, and SRESs understand this. They also are especially sensitive to the fact that moving can be highly emotional for someone who has lived in a home for many years.
And then there are move-in coordinators, which are becoming more and more common at CCRCs. After making a deposit at a CCRC and narrowing in on a move date, the community’s move-in coordinator can help with downsizing decisions, referrals for realtors, handymen, and movers, interior space planning for the new home at the CCRC, and other moving day logistics. This concierge-type service can alleviate much of the stress —emotional and physical — that typically comes with the CCRC moving process.
The welcome relief of downsizing
If you are unsure about whether you are ready to downsize and move to a CCRC, I’d encourage you to weigh all of this information and determine if you are ready to consider letting go of your current home and some of your “stuff.” It is a big decision that should never be taken lightly, but once you pull the trigger, you may just find that it feels as if a weight has been lifted, and you were actually readier for the change than you thought!