Aging with Care: Downsize your home to age in place

Aging with Care: Downsize your home to age in place

Aging with Care: Downsize your home to age in place

Okay baby boomers, is it time to downsize and move into a house better suited for aging?

Does the following describe you? The kids moved out a few years ago and you’re still living in the multi-story home where the kids grew from babes to college graduates.

A single-story house with a small yard is well-suited for aging in place. Maintenance will be manageable. And, as mobility challenges arise, there will be no stairs to the bedroom and bath.

Besides, a small place makes it difficult for adult kids to take up residence with you.

Does it make financial sense?

With Seattle’s real estate market being so unbelievably hot, there are financial factors to consider. Finding an affordable replacement will be difficult. On the other hand, selling your family-sized home might net cash for your retirement nest egg, pay for moving expenses, and cover the cost of a smaller home.

If you are considering this, I would start by researching various areas throughout the city and surrounding communities. Make neighborhood a priority. Factor in access to groceries and health care. Make sure the neighborhood is safe and relatively free from crime.

Once you’ve narrowed down the neighborhoods, then research what’s available. Online resources like Zillow and Trulia let you search and filter the marketplace by zip codes, price, and other factors.

How quickly you decide on a replacement home depends on your personality…impulsive or thoughtful.  My suggestion: Study the market for a few months and get a sense of the price points of both your current home and homes in neighborhoods where you’d feel comfortable downsizing.

Here’s an issue that regularly comes up: My aging clients find health and mobility dictate a move to a house with access compliant with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act – wider doorways, walk-in tubs or showers with seats and safety bars, and higher toilets. Prioritize these amenities when choosing a home.

It’s best to downsize as soon as you can. Because of the stress of moving, many aging people wish they’d moved years prior to when they do.

What do I do with all my stuff?  Can I just walk away?

I think the number one issue that stops people from downsizing is the overwhelming work of dealing with years of accumulated personal property.

I’m at this stage myself. In two years, I’ll move from my home of 30 years to a house where I’ll be able to “age-in-place.”

But then, what am I going to do with all my “stuff?”

I’m moving from a Tudor home with traditional furnishings to a modern home where none of my furnishings fit.

The thought of disposing of my furnishings and years of accumulation is overwhelming. How will I do it?

The shorter answer is, I won’t.

How? There are businesses that specialize in relocating the aging. They manage the details and do the work. They pack and move the things I want. What stays behind is split into three groups — items to sell, items to donate, and items to dump. They provide the labor to clear the house and facilitate a sale of unwanted items that have value. Then, they clean up and prep the house to make it market-ready. Depending on the value of the items, the companies can take their fee out of a percentage on the sale of goods.

When choosing any moving company, do your homework. Make sure the company is trustworthy. Ask if they thoroughly scrutinize employees before hiring. Check online reviews and get references.

Avoid using internet-based companies when shopping for a mover. Often, these companies are brokers, not movers; you’ll have no control over who they hire and will have limited recourse if something goes wrong.

The easy steps to downsizing: Identify the things you want, walk away from the rest, and settle into a new home where you can age-in-place. Doesn’t this sound like the way to go? Happy aging!

MARLA BECK is the founder and former-president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling 206-838-1844 or via e-mail to