Help available for seniors on the move
By: Nicole Starker
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 06:00 am
Moving is always a huge job, but imagine downsizing from a house filled with 40 years worth of memories (and belongings) to a small apartment, or a single room. A growing number of seniors face this monumental task every day and though many have families to assist, moving can be overwhelming.
Shannon Lang was a working mom with small children when her parents were downsized. She searched for help with facilitating her parents’ move, but found none. It’s why she founded Elder Move.
Lang and her team help seniors with everything from booking movers to packing and unpacking, arranging cleaning services and junk removal, finding realtors, and even shipping items to family and storage facilities.
“We do a floor plan of their new location so we can help them decide what stuff will safely fit in their new place. We do sorting and downsizing sessions with them. They make the decisions, we’re just there to do the physical work. We arrange all charity pick-ups, bins, dump runs. We oversee the movers, we hire them, we unpack (clients) at the other end.”
Tara Burnett, outreach coordinator for the St. Albert 50+ Club says for seniors, moving is a different experience than it is for young or middle-aged people.
“Usually when a senior is moving, they’re moving to something smaller. There are usually things to be gotten rid of that perhaps have some emotional attachment,” she says. “So it’s not about just packing stuff up and moving them.”
Lang agrees that relocating seniors can involve some special considerations.
“We’re not like movers where we just go in and pack everything and move it,” Lang says. “We take our time at it and do it in short segments depending on how the senior is feeling and how they’re dealing with the whole thing.”
Burnett says that for many seniors, there’s more to moving than simply relocating, and the task of downsizing can be too time consuming for families of older loved ones.
“I think part of that relocation thing is not just about moving the stuff – it’s about sorting the stuff, and either donating or selling or giving to family,” Burnett says. “And families are more and more busy. I think they call them the sandwich generation where there are lots of people looking after their children and their parents.”
The outreach co-ordinator is also seeing more seniors who are not waiting until illness or mobility issues force them to relocate.
“I’m hearing more and more people, as they walk through our doors here at the club, saying that they’re doing their own sort of downsizing. I think our younger seniors – 65 to 75 – have gone through it with their parents and are saying, ‘I don’t want to leave all that stuff to my kids to do.’”
Lang says that not wanting to depend on family is one of the reasons seniors hire her company to help with their move. Since starting up Elder Move three years ago she has seen her business triple each year. Her employees assist with up to 15 moves every month and have taken courses in how to deal with seniors and situations that come with a move. Lang says no two clients are the same.
“They’re everybody. They’re people that are almost seniors that may have health problems. We did help a lady who has a broken back. She’s not a senior yet but we helped her. It’s mostly seniors though,” she says. “Some people are going straight out of the hospital into supportive care, some people are downsizing.”
Burnett says having an experienced neutral party, rather than a family member, assisting with the sorting and downsizing of belongings can make the process smoother, and Lang agrees.
“I do think it makes it easier,” says Lang.” The other thing is I like the fact that they have someone to blame other than their family member. You know it keeps a family together as a whole whereas they can get mad at me and not get mad at their kids.”
Lang says there are other ways to ease the transition of moving in to a new space for seniors.
“I think it’s important that they have a plan,” she says. “Things can get really hectic and they get really concerned unless they know exactly how things are going to play out.”
She says even though things don’t always happen according to the plan, an outline can ease the stress of moving.
“They need a plan and they need to know where they’re going,” Lang says.
At the St. Albert 50+ Club, Burnett encourages seniors to move to a place where they can see themselves for a long time.
“Is it somewhere you can age in place? Is it somewhere you can have your meals if you want them?” she asks clients.” If it’s some kind of condo, some have yard services. And perhaps, depending on their age and their medical status, is it someplace that will offer them medical assistance if and when they come to need it, or if they already need it?”