Downsizing, To Move or Not to Move? That is the Question

Posted by Rosemary, Volunteer Mentor @rosemarya, Sun, Apr 12 6:09pm

At some point as we age, we will have to make a decision about leaving our homes and downsizing. Maybe in our own town or to another town. Maybe to smaller home, condo, apartment, or assisted living/senior community.

When the time comes to downsize, seniors can struggle with a multitude of emotional, physical, and financial challenges.

How do you make an informed decision about when to downsize?
What tips do you have to share?

That has actually been on my mind a lot lately. This huge 4 bedroom house is a lot to keep clean as My wife and I get older. No kids anymore and having to climb stairs may at some point get difficult. I can't say memories are a big problem for me due to the fact that most of my bad memories leading up to my Heart transplant happened here. But the other factor is to get enough in a sale to purchase another house for the same money. Being on a fixed income is a factor also.

REPLY

Thank you, @rosemary for raising this important question. Like, Dana, I've been exploring for the past 2 yrs, the concept of downsizing and moving into an independent sr living estbl. near my daughter and family out-of-state. I also own a spacious home and while I can still manage the upkeep and regular maintenance required, more of my circle of close aging friends are facing similar deliberations and several already have moved, some to be closer to immediate family and others because of the need for more supervised care.

The question for me is timing. Would it be better to sell and move while I still have some wits about me and can take care of the decisions required in listing the house, arranging an estate sale, selecting the next residence or do I wait because my cost of living, maintenance and lack of state inc. tax makes it financially more feasible to stay put awhile longer. I bought long-term care ins. yrs ago and have been so fortunate that the premium has only gone up once and that to a small degree.

If I wait until I have fewer wits about me…which might not be long! vbg…my daughter would be ever so capable in handling what had to be done. However, I still vividly remember the difficulties I lived when handling my mom's later daily care and medical needs, home maintenance & repairs and later estate issues while living out-of-town. Living out-of-state would have only compounded the issues requiring action.

My longest divorced friend here of 40+ yrs recently began building a new home out-of-town to be near her children and grands. The new house is under construction; most of her belongings and furnishings for the new house have been moved and and placed in storage in the new location. Having completed her estate sale with her house listed for sale, she now is finding that there is almost a freeze on residential house sales in this area.

Now, with the spread of the virus especially hitting the senior living and nursing home establishments, I can only be thankful that I have waited on my decision. However, time does not stand still and my mental debate over timing continues.

I would really like to hear how others are thinking about downsizing and starting to plan ahead.

REPLY
@fiesty76

Thank you, @rosemary for raising this important question. Like, Dana, I've been exploring for the past 2 yrs, the concept of downsizing and moving into an independent sr living estbl. near my daughter and family out-of-state. I also own a spacious home and while I can still manage the upkeep and regular maintenance required, more of my circle of close aging friends are facing similar deliberations and several already have moved, some to be closer to immediate family and others because of the need for more supervised care.

The question for me is timing. Would it be better to sell and move while I still have some wits about me and can take care of the decisions required in listing the house, arranging an estate sale, selecting the next residence or do I wait because my cost of living, maintenance and lack of state inc. tax makes it financially more feasible to stay put awhile longer. I bought long-term care ins. yrs ago and have been so fortunate that the premium has only gone up once and that to a small degree.

If I wait until I have fewer wits about me…which might not be long! vbg…my daughter would be ever so capable in handling what had to be done. However, I still vividly remember the difficulties I lived when handling my mom's later daily care and medical needs, home maintenance & repairs and later estate issues while living out-of-town. Living out-of-state would have only compounded the issues requiring action.

My longest divorced friend here of 40+ yrs recently began building a new home out-of-town to be near her children and grands. The new house is under construction; most of her belongings and furnishings for the new house have been moved and and placed in storage in the new location. Having completed her estate sale with her house listed for sale, she now is finding that there is almost a freeze on residential house sales in this area.

Now, with the spread of the virus especially hitting the senior living and nursing home establishments, I can only be thankful that I have waited on my decision. However, time does not stand still and my mental debate over timing continues.

I would really like to hear how others are thinking about downsizing and starting to plan ahead.

Jump to this post

I agree @rosemarya This is a great topic! Here are a few of the things my wife and I considered, @fiesty76

My wife and I first began talking about downsizing when our last child left for college and we wanted a change too.

We began by making a list of those things in our lives we valued the most and wanted to try and preserve as we made this change. Unlike many others, one of the things on our list was that we did NOT want to move to be close to our children. We never wanted them to feel any pressure to not take a new job, etc. because ‘mom and dad moved here to be close to us’. We considered pets, yard space, weather (we love the Midwest and the changes in seasons), low maintenance/upkeep desires, what we could dejunk and what we might want to give to family and friends while we were still alive, and much more. We worked on our list for over a year – and over time items on it did change, move up or down on the priority list, or move off or on. We did this exercise well in advance of my wife’s brain cancer and were forever happy we had done it early.

One of the benefits was we were very aware of the importance to us of floorplan of any place we might live. As it turned out, due to this planning and foresight, we were able to have very doable home hospice care in our home when my wife’s condition demanded hospice care and she really wanted to do it at home.

I will admit our views were tinted by a very unhappy decision my parents made about moving to a ‘graduated care’ community. They discovered there were huge gaps in what was considered ‘full care’ when my father fell ill and as my mother’s needs also changed. While it was a financially very costly decision, my mother finally packed up and left that community. So we had no desire to have one of those in our plans.

We also decided that our decisions would not be ‘forever’ decisions, but look at what we decided as right at the time, but subject to change. I continue to hold this view as I am happy where I am now, but know fully a change in my physical condition, etc. will demand further adjustments.

Now I'm happy where I am, but know full well my physical or mental capabilities could change in the future and demand further changes.

Was this a bit of what you were wondering about?

REPLY
@IndianaScott

I agree @rosemarya This is a great topic! Here are a few of the things my wife and I considered, @fiesty76

My wife and I first began talking about downsizing when our last child left for college and we wanted a change too.

We began by making a list of those things in our lives we valued the most and wanted to try and preserve as we made this change. Unlike many others, one of the things on our list was that we did NOT want to move to be close to our children. We never wanted them to feel any pressure to not take a new job, etc. because ‘mom and dad moved here to be close to us’. We considered pets, yard space, weather (we love the Midwest and the changes in seasons), low maintenance/upkeep desires, what we could dejunk and what we might want to give to family and friends while we were still alive, and much more. We worked on our list for over a year – and over time items on it did change, move up or down on the priority list, or move off or on. We did this exercise well in advance of my wife’s brain cancer and were forever happy we had done it early.

One of the benefits was we were very aware of the importance to us of floorplan of any place we might live. As it turned out, due to this planning and foresight, we were able to have very doable home hospice care in our home when my wife’s condition demanded hospice care and she really wanted to do it at home.

I will admit our views were tinted by a very unhappy decision my parents made about moving to a ‘graduated care’ community. They discovered there were huge gaps in what was considered ‘full care’ when my father fell ill and as my mother’s needs also changed. While it was a financially very costly decision, my mother finally packed up and left that community. So we had no desire to have one of those in our plans.

We also decided that our decisions would not be ‘forever’ decisions, but look at what we decided as right at the time, but subject to change. I continue to hold this view as I am happy where I am now, but know fully a change in my physical condition, etc. will demand further adjustments.

Now I'm happy where I am, but know full well my physical or mental capabilities could change in the future and demand further changes.

Was this a bit of what you were wondering about?

Jump to this post

@rosemarya. So many of us are aging and are struggling with that decision. We actually had our whole house painted, inside and out, before my cirrhosis was diagnosed. That caused us to stop but we should have gotten moving shortly after my transplant. I think at that point we just needed to breathe for a while, but we waited too long and now aging has made the task more daunting.

Like @danab, our home is a large four bedroom home. We do have many wonderful memories here. We moved to this house when my son was 7, and my daughter was 5. Despite our home being larger than the homes we are looking at, the newer, much smaller homes often cost more than we would get for 30 year old home.

My husband definitely wants a first floor master bedroom. When we first planned on a move we were thinking more of a smaller home, not in a community, but now we are thinking of a home in a community that has a Homeowner’s Association to manage the outdoor upkeep such as plowing and lawn care.

Another important consideration for us as we age is proximity to essential services, particularly to medical care. I have most of my medical care in Boston at Mass General, so we do not want to increase the time it takes to get there. It’s about 55 miles from us, down Route 93 but that drive can take as long two hours during heavy traffic times.

One more essential for us is excellent cell phone reception since my cell phone pairs much better with my hearing aids than it does with our landline phone.

We have other more personal requirements such as at least two bedrooms plus another room that can be used as a bedroom, because our son and daughter live out of state and we always want room for them when they visit, and we are used to an attached two car garage and want the same.

I agree with @IndianaScott I do not want to move close to our children and make them feel boxed in to a location. Both have said when one of us passes the remaining one of us should move in with them, or at least close by. The only way either of us would do that would be if it would make their lives simpler rather than trying to look after a parent who lives a distance away.
As @fiesty76 commented, both son and daughter would be quite capable of handling things but I do not to burden them with any more than necessary.
JK

REPLY

@rosemary When my husband and i married two years ago, I moved to his town/his 800 sq foot condo, 96 miles from where I was. There was considerable downsizing as we merged two separate households into one. The plan was to wait until his retirement to find a home together, however we found this property last summer and bought it. I have lived here since 31 July last year, as he continues to work towards retirement, 800 miles away. We are ferrying things up by the truckload, and have it mostly completed now. While I downsized before the move up here, he brought more than he bargained for, and will have a ready project as he downsizes/finds space for his tools. [ie who needs multiple sets of the same wrenches!!]

Like others have written to you, downsizing, deciding what to let go of, the practical side of where to move/how to move/amenities is as much an emotional trial as physical one. Creating a chart of what you want/what you don't want/what you are flexible on helps tremendously; at least it worked in our case. We wanted out of a city, and accomplished that. I knew "one level" was needed for me. Large workshop area was on his list.

We feel we are fairly well set up to handle changing physical and mental health, having done our homework ahead of time. One thing is to listen to what you want, and not let others unduly influence you or guilt you in to making a decision that your do not wholeheartedly agree with. It will cause resentment later down the line.
Ginger

REPLY
@IndianaScott

I agree @rosemarya This is a great topic! Here are a few of the things my wife and I considered, @fiesty76

My wife and I first began talking about downsizing when our last child left for college and we wanted a change too.

We began by making a list of those things in our lives we valued the most and wanted to try and preserve as we made this change. Unlike many others, one of the things on our list was that we did NOT want to move to be close to our children. We never wanted them to feel any pressure to not take a new job, etc. because ‘mom and dad moved here to be close to us’. We considered pets, yard space, weather (we love the Midwest and the changes in seasons), low maintenance/upkeep desires, what we could dejunk and what we might want to give to family and friends while we were still alive, and much more. We worked on our list for over a year – and over time items on it did change, move up or down on the priority list, or move off or on. We did this exercise well in advance of my wife’s brain cancer and were forever happy we had done it early.

One of the benefits was we were very aware of the importance to us of floorplan of any place we might live. As it turned out, due to this planning and foresight, we were able to have very doable home hospice care in our home when my wife’s condition demanded hospice care and she really wanted to do it at home.

I will admit our views were tinted by a very unhappy decision my parents made about moving to a ‘graduated care’ community. They discovered there were huge gaps in what was considered ‘full care’ when my father fell ill and as my mother’s needs also changed. While it was a financially very costly decision, my mother finally packed up and left that community. So we had no desire to have one of those in our plans.

We also decided that our decisions would not be ‘forever’ decisions, but look at what we decided as right at the time, but subject to change. I continue to hold this view as I am happy where I am now, but know fully a change in my physical condition, etc. will demand further adjustments.

Now I'm happy where I am, but know full well my physical or mental capabilities could change in the future and demand further changes.

Was this a bit of what you were wondering about?

Jump to this post

Thank you, @IndianaScott for your thought provoking post.

You mentioned a consideration that is a primary one for me as well. My sil is a very creative, restless spirit who loves to explore new career ventures and challenges. Once a thoracic surgeon and cancer researcher at M.D. Anderson, he has changed careers three more times and now is CEO of a medical research corp based in their new state of Colorado. Who knows where he will want to venture next.

While I've owned my present home for nearly 50 yrs, one of my earliest thought was that whatever downsizing decision I reached, I wanted it to be a "last stop option". Since then, I've come to the same conclusion you and your wife reached and see a move as a "next step" not necessarily a "forever one".

I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts in decision making and am especially glad that your floor plan determinations worked well for your wife's hospice-at-home setting.

REPLY

All of your responses demonstrate that downsizing is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do.

My husband and I are facing the same decisions that each one of you has described. We have fixed our house of 30years to meet our needs, and it is not too big for us. Our thinking is that when going up and down the stairs becomes an issue, that will be our signal to move. We are hikers and currently the stairs are not an issue, however we are trying to be realistic and keep an ear and eye on what is available for when that time does come.

Here is an article that I want to share – Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress

Effects of Downsizing For Seniors
Tips to Take the Stress Out of Downsizing
1. Evaluate The Reasons For Downsizing
2. Create A Plan
3. Don’t Throw Things Away Prematurely
4. Work With Trusted Experts
5. Find A Smaller Space That Suits The Needs Of An Older Adult
https://www.grayingwithgrace.com/downsizing-for-seniors/

REPLY
@rosemarya

All of your responses demonstrate that downsizing is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do.

My husband and I are facing the same decisions that each one of you has described. We have fixed our house of 30years to meet our needs, and it is not too big for us. Our thinking is that when going up and down the stairs becomes an issue, that will be our signal to move. We are hikers and currently the stairs are not an issue, however we are trying to be realistic and keep an ear and eye on what is available for when that time does come.

Here is an article that I want to share – Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress

Effects of Downsizing For Seniors
Tips to Take the Stress Out of Downsizing
1. Evaluate The Reasons For Downsizing
2. Create A Plan
3. Don’t Throw Things Away Prematurely
4. Work With Trusted Experts
5. Find A Smaller Space That Suits The Needs Of An Older Adult
https://www.grayingwithgrace.com/downsizing-for-seniors/

Jump to this post

@rosemarya same here on the hiking, but more me than my wife they are building some new holmes in our neighborhood and are area seems to be experiencing a boom most of the new homes sold even before being finished so I'm thinking this might be a great time.

REPLY
@rosemarya

All of your responses demonstrate that downsizing is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do.

My husband and I are facing the same decisions that each one of you has described. We have fixed our house of 30years to meet our needs, and it is not too big for us. Our thinking is that when going up and down the stairs becomes an issue, that will be our signal to move. We are hikers and currently the stairs are not an issue, however we are trying to be realistic and keep an ear and eye on what is available for when that time does come.

Here is an article that I want to share – Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress

Effects of Downsizing For Seniors
Tips to Take the Stress Out of Downsizing
1. Evaluate The Reasons For Downsizing
2. Create A Plan
3. Don’t Throw Things Away Prematurely
4. Work With Trusted Experts
5. Find A Smaller Space That Suits The Needs Of An Older Adult
https://www.grayingwithgrace.com/downsizing-for-seniors/

Jump to this post

@rosemarya If you really love your home, and only the stairs are a potential problem, there is always the option of putting one of those lifts in on the stairway. My brother has the worst possible house for stairs and he is now in a position of being very tired constantly and having heart problems. They put one of those stairlifts in and it overcomes that obstacle. He still has to deal with a stairway to come in the house from outside but I don't think he goes out much these days.
JK

REPLY
@rosemarya

All of your responses demonstrate that downsizing is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do.

My husband and I are facing the same decisions that each one of you has described. We have fixed our house of 30years to meet our needs, and it is not too big for us. Our thinking is that when going up and down the stairs becomes an issue, that will be our signal to move. We are hikers and currently the stairs are not an issue, however we are trying to be realistic and keep an ear and eye on what is available for when that time does come.

Here is an article that I want to share – Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress

Effects of Downsizing For Seniors
Tips to Take the Stress Out of Downsizing
1. Evaluate The Reasons For Downsizing
2. Create A Plan
3. Don’t Throw Things Away Prematurely
4. Work With Trusted Experts
5. Find A Smaller Space That Suits The Needs Of An Older Adult
https://www.grayingwithgrace.com/downsizing-for-seniors/

Jump to this post

@rosemary, Thanks for this link for guide to downsizing. Something that takes a great deal of thought. At present, I am just so thankful that I have "stayed in place" and not hurried into an independent sr. living establishment.

REPLY

I guess I am lucky. We built our house when my husband was disabled from COPD so we have a ramp in the garage that makes it easy to get into the house. The master shower has a seat and the house has just two bedrooms. It is also small (only 1250 sq. feet) and is in a small town (under 3000 population). The only drawback is that the closest hospital is 30 minutes away but we have an emergency squad that can get us there if we can't drive. The hospital is small and if we needed something large the nearest large hospital is over an hour away. We have a screened in porch that is wonderful in the summer. I know most of my neighbors which also makes it great. My husband is now gone but I plan to stay here as long as I can.

REPLY

@rosemarya Sometimes downsizing means a lot more than physically moving. What I have trouble with, is where do all the family heirlooms go? I have oil paintings from Norway that my husbands family brought over in the 1800s and a trousseau box from 1737 (also from Norway.) The younger generation doesn’t want them, so, what to do? I’m really open to suggestion!

REPLY

@becsbuddy Maybe a donation to a Museum and then you can visit them plus some tax savings.

REPLY
@becsbuddy

@rosemarya Sometimes downsizing means a lot more than physically moving. What I have trouble with, is where do all the family heirlooms go? I have oil paintings from Norway that my husbands family brought over in the 1800s and a trousseau box from 1737 (also from Norway.) The younger generation doesn’t want them, so, what to do? I’m really open to suggestion!

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@becsbuddy As a genealogist I encounter this often. I often suggest the local history society, but they often have no room and/or do not have the capabilities to properly care for pieces. Then I suggest heritage societies. For instance I had several books in Czech, which the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library took. Perhaps for you the Norwegian Historical Society might find them of value for their collections, especially since you know their provenance. Most everything I have accumulated will be simply sold in an eventual estate sale.

REPLY
@nene22

I guess I am lucky. We built our house when my husband was disabled from COPD so we have a ramp in the garage that makes it easy to get into the house. The master shower has a seat and the house has just two bedrooms. It is also small (only 1250 sq. feet) and is in a small town (under 3000 population). The only drawback is that the closest hospital is 30 minutes away but we have an emergency squad that can get us there if we can't drive. The hospital is small and if we needed something large the nearest large hospital is over an hour away. We have a screened in porch that is wonderful in the summer. I know most of my neighbors which also makes it great. My husband is now gone but I plan to stay here as long as I can.

Jump to this post

@nene22 Your home sounds ideal, size and its amenities. It really is nice to be in a neighborhood where you know and are friendly with the people around you.

@becsbuddy I too wonder what will become of many of our things. My son and daughter are both real sentimentalists so I think they will want many things but other things that we have accumulated and are dear to me will probably not be wanted by either of them. The things I have of any real value will not be a problem. I think @IndianaScott has the right idea, the kids can sell them at an estate sale.
JK

REPLY
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