Downsizing for the Golden Years

Judith Kahn has been helping older adults for most of her career. With memories of loving grandparents, Judith felt an affinity for the elderly from an early age. Now, with over 30 years in the field of aging, she is an expert in the emotional and practical needs of seniors and their families. Bringing a deep understanding of the emotional upheaval a move in later life can bring, Judith uses her compassion for seniors and excellent organizational skills to make her client’s moves stress-free.A specialist in advocacy and healthcare issues of the elderly, she has run numerous social services programs, trained hundreds of professionals and volunteers, and is a professional speaker and former fundraiser. In a desire to have a direct, positive impact with seniors during stressful times, she began her Senior Move Management business.

Judith Moves You, LLC is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

What is the role of a Senior Move Manager? When should someone engage a Senior Move Manager?

Senior Move Manager (SMM’s) specialize in the emotional and physical needs of moving older adults. SMM’s will organize and carry out every part of downsizing and relocating such as: sorting through 50 years worth of belongings, helping clients sell, donate, or discard those that are no longer wanted, packing, hiring and supervising movers and unpacking at the new home. SMM’s are often working with extended families or families with complex dynamics. As a neutral party, SMM’s can help de-stress this difficult time. A move is stressful and physically exhausting at any age, and many older adults are paralyzed by the amount of details that need to be handled. The most common question is “What am I going to do with all my stuff?”. An SMM will handle all the details and provide emotional support at the same time.

What is the best advice you can give someone helping to coordinate a move for a Senior?

Start early and be very patient. Sorting through clothes, books, kitchen ware, shoes, etc. takes hours and hours. Most seniors can work for two to three hours before they are exhausted. The more time you have to sort gradually, the more you can protect the client’s health and well-being during this stressful time. Try to suspend your judgement about what is “worth keeping”. One person’s treasure is another’s trash. Stay focused–choose one task at a time and work on it until you are finished. Enlist the aid of a professional SMM!

When Seniors decide to downsize, do they generally want to take art and antiques with them to their new homes?

Most Seniors are downsizing to a smaller living unit. They are also entering a phase in their lives where they are no longer acquiring new things and want to winnow down on their possessions. Often, their belongings are starting to feel like a burden rather than a pleasure. Most clients are ready to sell, donate or bequeath to relatives, much of their art and antiques.

How do you help Seniors decide which items they should take with them when they downsize?

First, we make a floor plan to see what will fit in the new space. Seeing one’s furniture on the plan helps considerably, especially for those who have trouble envisioning what the new space will look like. It quickly becomes clear that the dining table for 12 and buffet will not fit! When clients need guidance, encourage them to take items that they love! What do they look at, sit in, or use every day?

Do you find that the children and grandchildren of Seniors are interested in taking the art, antiques and collectibles their parents have acquired over the course of their lifetime?

Rarely. Children and grandchildren have homes full of their own furniture, art and collectibles. Their tastes are different from their parents/grandparents and they don’t have room for more than a few small items.

What are your “go-to” resources for selling different types of items on behalf of your clients?

SMM’s are usually contacted to help a client 2-6 weeks before a move. This short time frame influences what resources will work best. Also, most older clients are vulnerable and cannot have Craigslist buyers traipsing through their homes Visits with trusted appraisers are often a starting point to help the client understand the current market value of items. Useful options are: auction houses, online auctions, eBay, liquidators, and of course, now we have Lofty which is a great service! In NYC apartment buildings, it is not possible to have tag/estate sales, but many SMM’s use them in other parts of the country. One of the hardest parts of my work is helping my clients understand the current value of their belongings. The specter of the Great Depression influences so many of their decisions. The fact that 1930’s dark brown furniture is not desirable is very upsetting to them.

To learn more about Senior Move Managers, please visit the National Association of Senior Move Managers website.