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Nation Preps for Wave of Senior Citizen Moves

Most seniors would like to stay in their current homes as long as possible. Still, the time comes when the four-bedroom house becomes too much work, or they need help with daily activities and have to consider downsizing to a smaller place that needs less upkeep or is closer to family members.

The number of seniors who find themselves in this position is steadily rising as the population ages. "Something's happening that has never happened before," says Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, a Washington, DC trade group. "Two populations are hitting later life simultaneously: There are 68-year-olds caring for an 88- or 90-year-old parent. 

Buysse says 70-somethings -- the so-called "Silent Generation" -- are finding it more challenging to move their parents than 45-year-olds might.

"Then too, people have never been so dispersed; so many older adults do not have family nearby" to help them move, Buysse says.

The first of the nation's 78 million Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age, portending a future wave of senior moves, although so far they are largely staying put. A survey sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons indicates that just 6% of Boomers plan to live in a smaller residence over the next five years.

Still, this generation is so big that there will be more of them doing everything.

Buysse says Boomers who enlist NASMM members to help with a parent's move often use the same senior move manager when they move into an active retirement community. 

Senior citizens have unique needs when it comes to moving. They may not be up to the physical burdens of lifting, reaching and bending. If they're moving to a smaller space, they also need to determine what to bring, where to put it, and to deal with the sale or donation of items that will be left behind.  "Most people who are moving from their life-long home have considerable possessions," Buysse says. "They need help finding a new home for a lot of it."
Senior moves are also emotionally difficult, particularly if they aren't voluntary: Change in routine, saying goodbye to friends and neighbors, concerns about a new place.

"A lot of older adults become more isolated, and they have to move from living alone or with one other person to congregate-living," Buysse says. "It's like going back to college and living in a dorm."

In the past few years the senior move industry has sprung up to help seniors -- and their children – with the transition. NASMM's membership has mushroomed to 450 from just 70 two years ago.  They helped with some 15,000 senior moves last year. They serve as the nearby family that the senior might not have, making the moving-company arrangements, packing and unpacking boxes, and helping set up a senior's new home.

Your Next Move: Helping Seniors Transition to a New Home

How to Assist a Downsizing Elderly Parent

Allison Bisbey Colter is a freelance writer in New Jersey whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and American Banker. She is a former editor at TheStreet.com and a former reporter for Dow Jones Newswires.

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