This series is all about helping aging parents. It grapples with the difficult conversations you may need to have as you get older. Here I discuss how to have the downsizing talk with aging parents. As the title states, this series aims to help adult children simplify their aging parents' lives as they retire. Each post will discuss different aspects of this process. So, let's begin.
First, I am using the word downsizing to describe a retired person (or anyone for that matter) who wants to get rid of unused stuff and prefers to simplify their life. They could decide to move or live in their well-organized home. Not every retiree needs to move from their home if their home works effectively for them.
This series's first post will be about determining if downsizing is right for your parents.
- The pros and cons of downsizing your parents.
- Downsizing Questions to ask your aging parents to determine if they would want to downsize.
- What to do after the Downsizing Talk with Aging Parents?
- Is it cost-effective to downsize my aging parents?
- If my parents stay at home, how can I minimize their risk?
- How to get rid of stuff to help my parents have a safer home?
The pros and cons of downsizing your parents.
There are lots of pros and cons to downsizing your parents. Here are the main ones.
Making their lives easier. We all want to make our parents feel more comfortable in their later years.
Saving money. When your parents go to social security, they may not want to work any longer. So, minimizing their monthly expenses is a plus. Your mortgage shouldn't be more than 28% of your pre-tax income monthly is a good guideline for finding the right mortgage.
Selling their home makes it easier for them to relocate to a cheaper area. This gives them more flexibility to move to a warmer climate if they choose to do so.
It may create undue stress on your elderly parent. Not all parents like to move, so keep that in mind when approaching the subject with your parent. Remember, your parent may have lived in their home for decades, and it may be overwhelming to think how they would get to the point where they can downsize.
***AD*** from Released Repurpose Reorganize: My List Simplified journal is a wonderful organizing tool for planning a move or a renovation. Use it to corral all the to-dos.
The timing of your parents can be a major pitfall. If it is a down market, it may not make sense to sell their home.
When moving your parents to a retirement community, they may not care for it. Then, you will have to revisit the topic of "where do you want to live?" again with them. The extra cost of having assisted living may be a lot more expensive than you think. So, be sure you get all the costs that could happen when looking into assisted living.
Below are some initial questions to ask your parents to determine if they would be receptive to downsizing.
Downsizing Questions to ask your aging parents to determine if they would want to downsize.
Bringing up the topic with your parents may be intimidating. But, with a little planning beforehand, it will help you stay focused on the topic and not on the emotional aspect of getting rid of their stuff. Start by writing a list of yes or no questions for your parents to answer.
Would they consider moving if you helped them through the process and made it easier for them? Yes or No
Where would they want to live: Would they like to visit some retirement communities? Yes, or No
Would they want to live in a smaller home? Yes, or No
Would they want to stay in their immediate neighborhood? Yes, or No Would they want to move near you? Yes, or No
Would they be willing to get rid of stuff in their home that will make it safer for them to move around? Yes or No
Would they be willing to donate, sell, or give away items (furniture pieces, household knick-knacks) that are unnecessary? Yes or No
These are just a few questions, but hopefully, it helps inspire you to get started on your yes or no list of questions.
What to do after the Downsizing Talk with Aging Parents?
After you have had the conversation and your parents agree to be open to the option of downsizing and moving, gather all the bills and paperwork together to see if it really would work for your parents to downsize.
If their billing system is poorly organized, you may want to make up your own tracking and budget. Below are two ebooks that talk about how to track expenses and income and how to create a budget.
HOW TO TRACK YOUR EXPENSES AND CREATE A BUDGET - PART 1
HOW TO TRACK YOUR MONEY AND CREATE A BUDGET - PART 2
Be kind and not criticize how your parents have handled their finances. Work through the process one bill at a time and calculate the average or fixed expense. Adding all these expenses and income, subtract the difference to determine what is left.
Is it cost-effective to downsize my aging parents?
Well, each parent's financial situations are different. So to figure out if it is cost-effective for them to move, sit down and look at the numbers, check out this site: "Figure Out How Moving Changes Your Finances." Moving isn't cheap. And the undue stress may not make sense for your parents. So gather the information together and sit down with your parents and go through the details.
If my parents stay at home, how can I minimize their risk?
If your parents don't want to move or it isn't cost-effective for them to downsize, determine the extra cost to help them live a happy and safe life in their existing home. Here are some questions to ask:
Do they need a caregiver on a daily or weekly basis?
Do they need a 24/7 monitor system and/or security system? Places like ADT offers a Medical Alter System.
Does the house need to be repaired?
In the bathroom, does it need handicap railings put in?
Does the shower need to be changed to a standing shower?
Does the railing on the steps need to be reinforced?
Create a list of questions before you approach your parent to tell them about the modifications you want to make in their home. Always be respectful. It is, after all, their home. Feel free to visit our post "HOW TO CREATE A SAFE PLACE FOR YOUR SENIOR PARENT" for more safety tips!
If they do decide to stay at their home, don't modify and declutter all by yourself. Get help from a professional organizer. The process will be very emotional for them and having a professional onsite during the decluttering will help a great deal and make the experience a pleasent one.
Looking for information about having aging parents moving in with you, I found this post on Time Magazine website that is pretty helpful.
How to get rid of stuff to help my parents have a safer home?
You can donate many items. But, if you want to see if you can sell them, visit our other post, "Items to Sell For Cash Today".
I hope this helps you have the downsizing talk with your aging parents. Please come back next week for more tips to help you and your parent.
Have you dealt with this downsizing process with your parents? How did it work for you? Do you have any tips to share? Please leave a comment below.
The Complete Series:
Feel free to visit the rest of the posts in this series:
THE DOWNSIZING TALK WITH AGING PARENTS <<THIS POST!!!!
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS DOWNSIZE THEIR STUFF
HELPING YOUR PARENTS WITH MONEY MATTERS
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS WITH PAPER MANAGEMENT
HELPING YOUR PARENTS WITH ONLINE ACCOUNTS
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS WITH LEGAL DOCUMENTS
A difficult topic thoughtfully broken down into manageable steps. This is a great post!
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Katherine!
Great article. I like the way it shows that moving a parent to a new home is about them and what they want. If the situation is addressed in that way it is easier to come up with the best idea of where and when they should consider moving. The availability of a caregiver, family member or paid person is a big part of the decision. The elderly parent needs to understand who will be able to help them. Don't let them assume it will be a specific family member. If they understand who will be able to drive them, help around the house, go shopping it may change their decision.
What a robust post covering so many elements to consider. There's so much emotion involved in downsizing decisions, and I encourage clients to start as early as possible, even before they have any notion of moving, because the enormity of the project (when put off) tends to limit the choices people have and increase their overwhelm. You've posed important questions and given readers excellent guidelines for figuring out their various next steps. (I have no kids, which makes me all the more aware of how important it will be to have this serious talk with myself!)
Lots of factors to consider! I'm glad you even added if it made financial sense to downsize, as sometimes, due to mortgage rates, they may be making just as big of a mortgage payment on a smaller place as they would with their current home.
Thank you for revisiting this important topic. I work with clients helping them downsize and move or downsize thinking they may move in the future. It is an emotional exercise. It is often accepting that they are making a major shift in their lives.
To complicate the issue for me - I know that I will have to have this discussion myself with my children at some point in the not too far future. Sigh!
This is such an important and sensitive topic. I love how you approached it and offered gentle questions to begin the conversation. I was fortunate to have conversations with my parents early. This was helpful because when they could no longer make their own decisions, I could move forward knowing what their wishes and resources were. Everything was organized in advance, including the legal things like having updates on Wills, POA, Medical Directives, etc.
I also have helped clients and/or their parents downsize. It is an emotional time. Ideally, you have enough time to work through the process without having to rush because it can be challenging to go through and dispossess a lifetime of memories and stuff.
Diane N Quintana
This is great, Sabrina. I love the many times you pointed out that it's important to be respectful and listen to the parents' wishes. Moving does add stress and it may not be worth the cost or the effort. Downsizing and remaining in-place can be a wonderful option for aging parents - as long as the home is safe. Removing tripping hazards and many of the knick-knacks helps as do extra railings, grab bars and walk-in showers. I think the hardest thing to do is reviewing finances and budgeting with parents. They want to feel in control and being aware of that is key to making progress.
Very important topic to think about, Sabrina.
Honestly I think that it is very individual, some parents might be perfectly ok with the idea of downsizing, others (like mine) for example would prefer to work hard and live their full life until the end
Convincing someone they need help can be difficult. When we age, we all need it. But sometimes, this process can belittle someone. We must have an open discussion with our parents to point out the pros and cons, but to ensure them of their value and worth.
I totally agree, William. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
Very timely for a lot of peole, I'm sure. Because of my parents' illnesses, the plan we all made together was for them to stay in the home until they passed. We kids were blessed that they were well organized financially and also that our youngest sibling bought the house.
Good series that I'm sure will help a lot of people.
Such a pertinent topic! I love your list of questions. Looking forward to the rest of the series! Definitely sharing. 🙂
My mum is still young in age and at heart. She has made it clear she has no wishes to be placed in a retirement home. It is a sensible choice for those who are rattling around in a large house and need to free up cash.
My mom talks about downsizing more and more, but I don't think she ever will. The move would be too stressful for her.
This is a valuable subject as most people have to deal with this at some point. I think another element of this is that the "kids" often don't want their parents to part with their childhood home. And so it is very hard for them too. My husband grew up in only one house and he panics at the idea of his parents selling. I grew up as a nomad so I said goodbye to my childhood home many times.
What a valuable series this will be Sabrina! My own parents are long-gone, but I know many others who will definitely appreciate this advice.
I'm lucky, because my dad decided on his own when he was ready to downsize from a house, to a condo, to an apartment, and now to a senior's apartment building, which he loves, but my father-in-law is determined to remain independent forever!
Sabrina -- I'm glad you're writing about this important topic. Perhaps you'll be covering this in a future post, but moving parents also creates a lot of stress for their adult children. Luckily, my mother, who was a widow, pushed to move to an assisted living facility. I think she was tired of living alone and we also recognized that she was becoming more forgetful and it wasn't safe for her to live on her own anymore. We were lucky that she didn't resist, but embraced the idea.
This is such an important topic and I'm grateful that you wrote about it. I've experienced this from the organizer/client perspective and also with our parents. I'm going through this now and it's a challenging situation. But like everything else, we take it one step and one conversation at a time.
I was lucky in that my parents took the initiative on this one. I think it is most difficult when the children are concerned but the parent "digs in" and won't even consider moving. This is even worse when the children are far away and feel they can't be there to help as much as they might wish. Great list of questions!
Agree with your suggestions, Sabrina. Can't help thinking that it would have been fantastic if I had had the opportunity to advice my parents on downsizing. My father passed away in 1980 and my mother in the year 2000. Would have been wonderful if they were still alive.
Interesting to read this because I am already in fact retired. I do have a somewhat unusual situations in that while I am retired I have a 12-year-old son. I bought the house I live in largely because of the quality of the school system in this town. So I don't expect to consider selling it until my son has graduated high school. Will I consider downsizing at that time. No doubt.
Interesting post, Sabrina. I went thru the same process with my own father a number of years ago. Primarily because he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease and it was no longer safe for him to be living on his own in his house. I found that my introducing the idea in stages, it helped. I took him to see a few prospective properties where he might choose to live that were in different categories, so that i knew what was important to him (re financial, physical, and locational concerns.) I could then work to narrow it down to what best met his needs and preferences.
Great advice, Doreen. Thank you for sharing.