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Moving is one of the most stressful life events, and it can be especially so for older people who have been in one home for a long time. With proper planning, though, moving can be less stressful, and sometimes even offer relief from a too-crowded or too big home. This article offers advice for planning and executing a move for older people, from start to finish.

Know when it’s time to downsize

Moving is one of the most stressful life events, and it can be especially so for older people who have been in one home for a long time. Making the decision to downsize is an individual choice and requires careful consideration and patience. For many seniors, the decision to downsize comes after a significant change in health, when a home that once accommodated a full family becomes just too much to take care of. Although it can be very sad to let go of a beloved home, the benefits of downsizing include less cleaning, less maintenance and associated costs, and a smaller area to navigate. It might also be significantly less expensive to live in a smaller place, and if the older person sells their home, they might receive a sum of money that can last a long time.

Prioritize what’s important

Whatever the reasons for moving, now is a good time for the older person to take stock of their possessions and wean out the unnecessary ones. Over a lifetime, many people find themselves collecting more knick-knacks, gadgets, clothing, and bedding that they don’t need for everyday living. Many of these items hold no sentimental value and just take up space. 

Help the older person take a good hard look at their possessions and determine which ones are necessary and which ones bring joy, and which ones can be donated to those in need or sold or recycled. When doing so, try and remain calm and rational, and practice patience: after all, giving up a lifetime’s worth of memories can be a sad experience, especially for those older people who have suffered the loss of a partner or other loved one who inhabited the home. 

Plan by room

If possible, obtain a floor plan of the new space. This will help plan out where large items like furniture will go, and help determine which furniture should go with the older person and which should be sold or donated. Planning by room will also help the older person envision their new life in the new home, which can help ease the transition to the new place. 

Find the right movers

No one should tackle moving alone, and this is especially true for older people. Enlist help from family and friends, who can help pack and sort items and may even be able to move furniture and boxes depending on their abilities. Pack what you can, but know your limits: this holds true for the older person as well as for caregivers. 

If the older person needs professional help, start looking as early as possible. Especially during the first few and last few days of the month, highly rated movers may be booked elsewhere. The National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers specializes in helping older customers to simplify, organize, and downsize before a move, for a fee. AARP is also a resource that can help find highly reviewed movers, and the organization also offers discounts on moving services in some areas.

Say goodbye

Once it’s time to say goodbye to a longtime home, it can be an emotional experience for everyone involved. Make sure to make time to acknowledge the loss and the transition. Light candles, thank the home, have a house-cooling party, and invite friends and loved ones to celebrate all the joyful moments that occurred in the home. 

Pack an essentials suitcase

Make sure the person has at least three days’ worth of essentials right at hand, including medications, changes of clothing, toiletries, and snacks. Since the unpacking process will likely take several days or even weeks, it’s also a good idea to pack a box or two with tools, gadgets, and other essential items, like coffee makers and a set or two of dishes, ready to go. 

Bring something special

Keeping memories of the old home can be helpful to those grieving the loss of a beloved home. Bring a special memento or photo that was prominent in the old home, and make it one of the first things that is unpacked in the new home. This will help the older person identify with the new home, and begin to make more joyful memories in the new place. 

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