Deciding to downsize seems such a practical thing for your parents to consider. However it can be emotionally fraught and practically challenging, so we’ve tried to identify some steps that may making helping your elderly parents downsize a whole lot easier.
1. Start planning the move as soon as you can
Downsizing is never easy particularly if it has been the family home for years. The emotional trauma alone can be overwhelming. What goes to the new place and what goes elsewhere will be one of the primary considerations so if you can help them get started on this as soon as possible.
2. Think long-term
It can be hard to think far enough ahead. You don’t want to have to repeat the move so worth considering potential long-term health and care needs; level access, walk-in showers, proximity to shops, GP, public transport etc. If you can bear to think about the worst case scenario – whatever that might be for your family – and work backwards from there – which could be single level living and full disability access.
3. Plan what will go where in the new home
What goes/comes with them is really difficult both practically and emotionally; less is definitely more, and you don’t want to be doing another cull once you get to their new home or find they have too much or furniture is too big and won’t fit. One of our Age Space supporters told us they found themselves wondering if two canvas lilos circa 1960 should really go to the new home or not…
4. Keep things in the family
It’s a more positive thing if furniture, pictures etc that can’t go to the new place can be given to family members – lessens the wrench of letting stuff go when they know it will remain in the family and be put to good use.
5. The move itself
There are removal companies which specialise in moving older people; but whoever you choose, it’s really helpful if they can do everything – from packing everything at the old house – to helping your parents unpack boxes in the new house, otherwise you definitely need to be there too to lend practical as well as emotional support.
Don’t under-estimate the emotional trauma such a move brings (yes, we’ve said it twice) – although it also might be incredibly liberating and give your parents a completely new lease of life in a smaller, easier to maintain home! Find allies and support amongst siblings, aunts, uncles, friends of your parents, anyone who can help them make the really hard decisions.
We hope that these tips on helping elderly parents downsize benefits you and all the family.
We have one family’s downsizing story in our blog, which may be useful. You might also be thinking of alternatives including your elderly parents moving in with you.
Do you have experience of helping elderly relatives or friends downsize? What are your top tips? Share your experience or see others’ advice in our Age Space Forum.