We often hear the term “downsizing” when people move later in life to a smaller space. But for aging adults, I like the term “rightsizing.”
I counsel families about how best to help their older adult relatives and friends make a move later in life. My definition of rightsizing is: “A move that incorporates more efficient use of space and addresses the individual’s needs at the time.” It’s about finding the optimum living situation that offers the right combination of services and amenities to support an older adult’s changing needs and desired lifestyle.
When I work with the families of older adults I recommend that together we follow a 3-step assessment and planning process to determine the “rightsize” senior living option.
#1: Assess your loved one’s needs & desired situation
When considering a move later in life, it’s important to assess your loved one’s lifestyle and needs at the time of the move, as well as their potential future needs. I also recommend to my clients that we discuss everyone’s preferences to come to a full understanding and agreement.
- What are the primary reasons for the move: medical, financial, maintenance-free lifestyle?
- Do you want your loved one to move closer to family?
- Would your loved one prefer to stay in their current location, close to their friends? If so, do you have local connections (people or organizations) that can help your family member in a medical or other crisis?
- Does your loved one (person/couple) have an idea of where they want to move? Are they thinking about an independent senior apartment complex, assisted living community, a buy-in continuing care retirement community, or someplace else?
- If you think a move to a senior living setting would be best, which option do you think would best meet their needs? What activities and services do you think they are interested in? (Ask them!)
- What size space do you think your loved one could live in comfortably?
- Do you have a defined budget? What resources does your loved one have to pay for senior living and services? Does anyone in your family have the ability to supplement their resources if necessary to help pay for their new home?
#2 Settle on a plan of action together
Don’t leave your loved one’s life to chance – make a plan! Planning in advance ensures that your loved one can be fully involved in the decision-making process if that’s what they want. Planning allows your family, and especially the older adult, to have control over the outcome. Also, if they face a crisis such as a fall and broken hip that necessitates an immediate move to one-floor living, your advance planning enables you to react more quickly to changing circumstances.
- Settle on a preferred time frame for a move that everyone agrees to: this year, next year, five years, ten years?
- Allow plenty of time to do the research and explore different options. Who will take the lead in doing the research? How many family members want to be involved?
- Take tours of senior living communities, apartment complexes and organizations that interest you and your loved one. Who will accompany your loved one on tours to provide an extra “pair of eyes and ears” – family members, trusted friends, a professional elder care consultant? Do you want to do initial tours without your loved one to “vet” places before you bring your elderly relative for a visit?
#3 Think ahead to the move itself
Even if the anticipated move date seems far in the future, thinking about the practical aspects of moving makes sense to do now. It also helps an older adult start to envision themselves living in a new space, perhaps even getting excited about it.
- What will happen to items that will not be taken in the move? Does your loved one want to start giving things away now, such as smaller items and mementos to their children and grandchildren?
- Who will be available to help with pre-moving tasks, including sorting through everything, finding homes for items that won’t be moved, and packing: the individuals themselves, family, friends? Will you need the services of a move-manager who can spearhead and manage the entire process?
- Does your loved one have a house or an apartment to sell? Do you have an existing relationship with a realtor, or would you consider the services of a Senior Real Estate Specialist to help with this?
There are many things to consider about future living arrangements for your aging loved one. And, there are a lot of available options. You want your loved one to settle into a new home that they can afford. At the same time, you want your loved one to live in comfort, be able to enjoy the company of others easily, and have plenty of support with the appropriate services.
I certainly know that you want to make this a reality but not go crazy in the process! Breaking it down into manageable steps will really help. Good luck!