What motivates us? What scares us? What prevents us from moving in the right direction when it comes to our lifestyle? How do we overcome procrastination as a result from fear, anxiety and confusion!
These are questions we all wrestle with at one time or another. Every day we are making judgements and decisions based on information we accept as compatible with our thinking. Each and every one of us are a product of the experiences, successes and setbacks throughout our lives. We make judgement calls about other people, our jobs, our financial situation and of course ourselves. These assessments may be good for our well-being or detrimental to our health and lifestyles. It is up to each of us to make that determination. No one can do that for you.
Have you taken a good look at your own situation or that of your parents when it comes to the health and wellness of the home in which you or they live? Most of us will accept status quo as it is familiar and feels safe. Change is so difficult for all of us and the thought of moving from our long-time home to senior housing is both uncomfortable and unsettling. When faced with change we may filter out the facts so that we hear only what confirms our current belief system. Our homes fit who we were over the years and as age creeps in, the stairs, huge yard and low bath tub were just perfect 20 years ago. Now walking upstairs to bed or downstairs to do the laundry is becoming more difficult as each year passes.
The best antidote to fear and change is knowledge. Getting the facts about senior housing options is a great first step. Listening to friends or acquaintances is often misleading if they are not giving you information based on fact. Much of what we hear may be based on experiences of others we don’t know and become our reality. Therefore, visiting with senior marketing directors of communities, or senior placement services that locate the right housing to match your health and lifestyle is a great first step. The information is free and full of great ideas and options. It is critical to research the actual cost of senior apartments and communities. You may find they are more affordable than you ever thought possible.
Have a Senior Real Estate Specialist visit with you to determine the value of your home and what is needed to prepare for sale. Over 40% of all homeowners have the majority of savings in the equity of their homes. Knowing the actual value and what you will net in a sale in today’s market is critical to understanding what you can afford. Once you have determined your total assets and have gathered cost information about senior housing options you have a set of facts that will lessen fear and anxiety and replace those negative emotions with a positive outlook and planning for the rest of your life.
You may find yourself excited to make a move! As for helping your parents with a decision to make a change from their current home to better senior living surroundings, it is critical to have a conversation that exposes their fears and anxiety. Avoid talking in the first person (“I”) and make it about your parents. Saying “I want you to move, I think this home is too much work for you, I am worried about your safety” makes it sound like it is about you the child and not about your parents. Listen with both ears and try to understand where emotions are coming from and how you can best help.
The best news is that there are so many services that have been born out of the needs and wants from those who have been in their homes for so many years. Downsizing companies, packing services, estate sale companies are ready to help take care of all of the years of gathered ‘treasures’ to make downsizing an enjoyable experience. Those who have gone through the transition have found that downsizing, packing and sorting to be rather freeing. Getting rid of years of treasures can be a positive experience if done with professionals who can do all the physical work and guide you along the way.
Here is a graphic example of a mother and daughter that I had worked with. Mom was an 85 year old widow, who lived in her home for over 30 years with her husband. He passed away suddenly and left her heart broken. She was alone, depressed and living in the fear of what to do next. Her daughter was her trusted advisor and wanted the best for her mother. It took about two years for the grieving to subside a bit and it became obvious it was time to move. However, this courageous lady was holding on to the memories and the treasures she had accumulated over the years. I received a call from her daughter asking me to stop by and help educate them as to the value of mom’s home, what to do with a lifetimes collection of stuff, and how to find senior housing which would fit her mother’s mental and physical condition as well as staying within her budget. We set an appointment and about a week later I rang the doorbell. This very timid and sad woman answered the door and I felt a bit like the grim reaper! I could see she was not looking forward to our appointment. We then sat down in her living room and her daughter introduced herself. I could see there was some friction between the two over this move. Mom really didn’t want it to happen, but her daughter knew she had to push a bit because it was obvious that a move to a better lifestyle was so necessary.
We discussed goals, timing and got to know one another. I then toured the home and looked for any trouble areas which may need of repairs. I also took in the cosmetic condition which in so many cases was poor. There was much wallpaper, walls needing painting, worn kitchen and bath and on and on. For me this is like breathing, but for those who are facing a move as daunting as this one it feels like holding one’s breath! We designed a game plan for getting the home ready and then discussed the value based on the way we would offer it to the potential buyers. I could see they were both feeling better. The next hurdle was a lifetime accumulation of clothing, boxes, papers, etc. We talked about hiring a downsizing company who would do all of the packing, sorting, estate sale, and move. Both mom and daughter began to breathe a bit easier. No more holding their breath which was a good start!
They had been to a few senior living communities and had one in mind. They decided to go to that apartment complex and get more information from the marketing director they had met months before. I noted a monumental shift in their body language and the fear on their faces began to subside.
About a week later, I received a call from the daughter saying that mom had signed a lease and put money down on an apartment in a senior community. She was so happy that they were moving in the right direction and now saw light at the end of a previously dark tunnel. We set another appointment to discuss timing of the sale and moving details. There was some work needed and I suggested contractors to take care of the issues that would have hurt the sale, such as a bad basement and roof. Mom decided to move first and the downsizing company helped pack and take the furniture and items that would fit in her new apartment. She had the company take quite a load as donations. The rest was sold at an estate sale. The downsizing company brought in a dumpster and cleared the rest out from the home and the garage.
Once vacant, I then put the home on the market. It sold in about 2 weeks and we closed about a month after that. The money went in the bank and the future for mother and daughter had been altered in a healthy way. I stopped by and met both at the new apartment and hugged two entirely different people from the ones I had met in that sad state a few months back. I asked mom, if she could move back to her home, would she? Her answer was, “I wish I had done it sooner!” which is what I hear most of the time. Daughter was happy that mom was in a safe place and a positive environment with folks her mom’s age where she could flourish. Mom was walking taller and smiling again.
In closing, overcoming your fear of the unknown is best accomplished by gathering facts and knowledge from those who are ready, willing and able to help assist and educate you or your family so that you are empowered to improve your lifestyle and take control of the rest of your lives. Waiting for a catastrophe or hoping you’ll receive a sign from elsewhere is unpredictable and may lead to crisis management which is the worst of all options. We want to take control of our lives and not leave it to chance.
I’ve written two books on the subject and if you are interested in purchasing these books, my website is www.BrucesTeam.com. One book is for the senior moving from a long-time home (“Moving in the Right Direction”) and the other is for the parent(s) who may need to change housing (“Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction”).
I wish you well on your journey and thank you for taking the time to read this article!
All the best,
Bruce Nemovitz, Senior Real Estate Specialist, Certified Senior Advisor, Author.