Living the Life You Want: Downsizing Advice for Seniors
Downsizing can be a disruptive process for seniors, but when it’s approached sensitively and with patience, it can open the door to a more rewarding life. It requires eliminating clutter, which causes stress and makes it difficult to manage a home that has more square footage than you can handle. Downsizing puts you in a manageable living space so you can live the life you want.
Know the Housing Market
You probably have something in mind for your next home in terms of size, style, and location. If so, that’s great, you’re a step closer to your goal. But you also need to have a feel for the housing market. As soon as the idea of downsizing enters your thoughts, research the real estate market where you want to live. Find out which properties are selling and for how much, and talk to a real estate professional about how to price your home based on property values in your neighborhood. Knowing the best time to sell, and for how much, is an essential step in the downsizing process.
Identifying the right home is about more than finding a smaller space — it’s also about finding a home with adequate accessibility and safety features. As you search, be aware that it may be necessary to make modifications, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen, the cost of which should be factored into your expenses. For example, the cost to remodel a bathroom in Dallas ranges from $5,203 to $15,909 and can take up to three months. (A specially adapted shower liner can cost $1,595 to $4,710, and linoleum flooring will run from $5 to $7 per square foot.)
Assisted Living vs. Independent Living
Downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be purchasing a new house. Older adults can maintain autonomy these days by moving into a senior care facility. You may need help with activities of daily living and medication management, which could mean assisted living is your best option, or you may want specific services, amenities, and independent housing, which an independent living facility can provide. Keep the differences between assisted and independent living in mind as you assess your mobility, health, and ability to care for yourself.
Ask For Help
Whether you are looking to downsize with a spouse or alone, get help with the process. There are many resources you can use to assist you with things like housing options, probate steps, medicine delivery, etc. Use the local resources to reduce the stress associated with downsizing.
Decluttering is a vital step for any senior who’s serious about downsizing, so go through your belongings as soon as you know you’re moving. It can be an emotional experience, but don’t think of decluttering as a necessary evil or something to be dreaded. Try seeing it as an opportunity to identify items that have deep emotional meaning and to free yourself of excess. Divide it all into separate piles, separating what you’re keeping from what goes, and don’t let nostalgia override your better judgment. Decluttering is an important step in the downsizing process, so take it seriously. Be honest about each object and stick with the decisions you make.
Many seniors hire a moving company to do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to packing and moving. It makes good sense unless you have a small army of big, strong relatives or friends willing to pitch in. Do plenty of research — don’t pay money up front, make sure your movers are licensed, insured, and bonded, and always get at least three separate quotes. Keep in mind that movers can cost upwards of $2,300, so budget accordingly. Also, pack systematically and note where each box and piece of furniture will go in your new home.
Downsizing can be freeing and self-empowering for older adults who want a new start and greater freedom. Finding a home where you’ll be safe and comfortable can take time, and you need to get a healthy return from the sale of your home. You may be starting a new life, but you still need to be smart with your money.