Today’s headlines are stark: Californians are leaving, fleeing the high cost of living, pandemic restrictions, homelessness, and lack of jobs that pay well enough to survive. Which doesn’t leave many positive reasons to stay.
Seniors don’t generally pack up and go far afield unless it involves their children and grandchildren. They’ve come to realize what’s important to them, and that’s family.
But seniors and retirees often move within the same community. Their biggest cited reason is the desire to have a less encumbered life, one that’s easier to pick up and go (once the coronavirus is gone). I’ve written on this topic a little, but I wanted to go deeper — to discuss the emotional impact of preparing to move, and how to get help with the process, whether staying in Lodi or moving to Maine. Staying, you may just pare down, but moving away, you may sell almost everything and start fresh.
Maybe if we think of ourselves as “right-sizing” instead of downsizing, it’ll give us an clearer focus.
First there’s your “stuff,” which “nobody wants,” according to Richard Eisenberg at the Next Avenue online site. He recently interviewed University of Kansas sociology and gerontology professor David J. Ekerdt about his book “Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life.”
Ekerdt surveyed a whole lot of people age 60 and older about downsizing, in particular. When asked what surprised him, Ekerdt said, “People often describe downsizing as being hard work and drudgery. And it’s quite complicated; it’s a cognitive task you have to think through, with endless details. And it’s emotional: you have to stop and consider whether you will still want to have things and protect them, or try to place them with relatives. So, it’s a social task.”
Eisenberg: “You said you found a lot of ‘divestment inertia.’ What do you mean by that?”
Ekerdt: “It’s typical for people to do less and less about their possessions as they move into their 70s, 80s and 90s. About half of people in their 70s have difficulty stooping, crouching and kneeling....So, the inertia is not surprising.”
Ekerdt also says, “We find the most common length of time for this downsizing is about six weeks to two months. In that period of time, the work you have to do to give things away and sell them is not going to move much material out of the house unless you turn the selling over to someone like an estate seller.” Or get help from a senior move manager.
What Ekerdt heard people say was, “We got rid of it.” Meaning, they were disappointed financially, but were glad to have it done.
Professional move managers sound like they’re worth their weight in packing peanuts. An article from A Place for Mom, written by Claire Samuels, lists these “Top 7 Reasons to Hire a Senior Move Manager”:
- They are experienced and vetted. They belong to the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), who have specialized training and a code of ethics they must follow.
- They help seniors downsize with dignity, “helping older adults part with their possessions without parting with their memories,” according to Jennifer Pickett, associate executive of NASMM.
- They allow seniors to feel in charge of difficult transitions. “If the aging relative is able to make some decisions, they will be more likely to accept the move,” says Pickett.
- They can emotionally prepare older adults for assisted living. A manager can listen to concerns and offer solutions based on their experience...to make the process less daunting.
- They can prevent family conflict by helping to de-escalate family situations.
- Their services can save money. Costs will run from $40 to $125 an hour, depending on specific services.
- They know how to sell and donate, and they have connections.
I loved an idea presented by a senior move manager to one client in her 80s who had acquired 85 unique teapots during her travels with her husband. She was downsizing to a 500-square-foot apartment and had no room to display them. The manager had her choose her three favorites to display, then took photos of the other 82 and had a poster professionally printed and framed, presenting it to the client as a gift. What a creative solution!
No matter how you look at it, moving and starting over is hard. Just plain hard. So, take the help where you can find it, give yourself enough time, if possible, and try to look ahead positively. And maybe keep a bottle of one of Lodi’s celebrated wines on hand for a cheerful end to each day.
Susan Crosby is a Lodi author and member of the Lodi Senior Citizens Commission.