As people age, it can become more difficult to maintain a large home, particularly when children have moved out, homeowners have medical concerns, or a spouse has passed away. When landscaping, cleaning, repairs, and upkeep of a large home become too cumbersome for older adults, it may be time to consider selling the home and downsizing to a smaller home, condo, or apartment.
Involve Everyone in the Discussion
In some cases, it’s the homeowner(s) who are ready to downsize; in others, children may recognize the need for aging parents who aren’t ready to move yet. Either way, involve everyone in the discussion so they feel their feelings are valid. If necessary, professional counselling may help reticent family members accept the necessity of the decision.
Take the Time
The decisions involved in selling the family home may take months or even years, especially if not everyone is on board. Don’t try to push the issue too hard; in many cases people just need time to get used to the idea. Downsizing can be a mixed bag of unexpected and strong emotions.
If a homeowner feels rushed to sell and find a new place, they may not be satisfied with the choice. Moving once is stressful enough, but moving multiple times can cause huge strain and be extremely costly. It’s important to ensure everyone is comfortable with the decisions involved.
Work with Professionals
It is easier to deal with the emotional aspects of this decision if you have rational data to work with, and professionals can provide third-party objectivity if decisions get heated. For example, an aging parent may be concerned about the cost of renting after selling, and worry that they won’t have enough money to live on. Working with a professional real estate agent and financial planner can help ease those concerns, as professionals can demonstrate exactly how long the money will last. An estate planner or tax attorney can also advise on the best way to protect your assets and income.
Real estate agents will be helpful finding a new, smaller home, even if the homeowner(s) is thinking of renting. For long-term care facilities, explore several options and allow time to get used to them. Some even offer immersive 1-2 week stays, to determine if the senior is a good fit in the community. These facilities can often provide assistance accessing appropriate social assistance and medical care as well.
Consider professional organizers to help with downsizing. They can provide tips about how to preserve cherished memories without keeping all the “stuff” (e.g. keeping just a late husband’s favourite armchair without keeping an entire living room set). They can give suggestions on what to keep and discard based on the owner’s preference and the new space.
Read the Fine Print
Many stages of the downsizing process, including selling, moving, buying or renting, and even organizing, will require paperwork and legal obligations. Always read the fine print and get help from a lawyer if needed. Long-term care facilities may only offer life leases, apartments may increase rent annually, and condos may have exorbitant fees for services. Research thoroughly to avoid surprises.
Assess Current and Future Needs
Each person’s reasons for downsizing may be different – some active seniors may just wish to free up capital for travel and adventure. Others may need a home with no stairs due to an illness or injury. Still others may need access to on-site medical care. When selecting a new home, examine current and future needs and choose accordingly.
Professionals and family members can help determine what the right type of housing style may be, though ultimately it is up to the homeowner to decide. Skyline Living’s Downsizing guide offers some factors to consider and questions to ask when selecting a housing type.
It can be easy to think of downsizing as a negative experience, especially if it is from necessity rather than choice. Don’t dwell on the past or criticize the new home’s deficiencies. Everyone will need to focus on all the good this change can bring – whether that’s a maintenance-free lifestyle, lower overall costs, easy access to medical care, or increased freedom. Remember, this isn’t an ending, it’s the beginning of a new adventure!