downsizingAccording to the U.S. Department of Commerce Statistics Administration, between 2010 and 2050, the U.S. population is projected to grow from 310 million to 439 million, an increase of 42 percent. The population is expected to become much older, with nearly one in five U.S. residents aged 65 and older in 2030.

The question is who or what service providers are equipped to handle this growing segment of our population. Often, the expectations are that family members are obliged to care for their aging parents. This places significant burden on loved ones who may not be emotionally or financially prepared to take on that responsibility. Just being a family member of an aging relative does not qualify them to take on such a daunting task.

Starting with the quality of life issues… what exactly does the aging parent require now and into the immediate future? Is this the time of life when some older citizens are ready for new adventures like more travel, hobbies, volunteering or spending time with family? Are they healthy and in good physical shape to undertake more activities and have the financial resources to do so. These seniors may be ready to downsize from their home of many years and move to smaller more manageable housing.

Depending upon their health and financial capabilities, downsizing to a smaller independent residence such as a condo or townhome can be very liberating. These are seniors who are in good physical condition and are still able to care for all of their immediate needs. Others may require some degree of additional assistance and would likely seek out “independent” living facilities. Seniors who require routine attention and care would be best served in one of the many outstanding “assisted” living facilities throughout the greater Columbus area.

downsizingRegardless of the stage of life issues, compassion, care and concern for our seniors, is paramount to having their needs met. Families most often are charged with initiating the conversation about when it is time to consider downsizing. Unless this challenge is conducted through the prism of how it should be delivered to the senior, it can lead to great emotional hardship for both sides. While family members mean well, they often are too close to the subject to be objective and thus may arouse unnecessary anxiety. Asking someone to give up their car keys is one thing but asking them to give up their home and familiar surroundings is another.

The decision to sell a family home and resettle a senior family member should have many considerations. First and foremost are the health and safety concerns. Are there stairs to traverse every day? Are the bathroom and other regularly used rooms in the house accessible without barriers, objects and hazards to deal with? Even pets and pet items can be a hazard to seniors. Is the neighborhood safe and is someone close enough reach in case of an emergency. Proximity to family members for both social and safety reasons should be of concern.

Often, downsizing an aging parent is more traumatic than necessary because the emotional needs of the senior are not taken into consideration. This should not be just another “real estate transaction”. Downsizing and transitioning seniors is not the same as traditional buying and selling real estate. There are many personal conditions that come into play. By using the services of a “senior specialist” you can make all the difference in the peace of mind for the entire family. Ancillary services such as movers, auctioneers, estate sale professionals, senior financing experts etc. should also be handled by “senior specialists.

Family members are well served when they seek out professional service providers who specifically deal with senior issues. For example, estate planning, family trusts and other financial matters are best left to elder attorneys and financial planners who regularly deal with senior issues. Realtors who carry the special SRES® designation are equipped to deal with clients aged 50+ for major lifestyle transitions involving relocating, refinancing, or selling the family home.

Taking the stress out of dealing with sensitive and often difficult family matters with seniors is a very realistic goal. Seeking out a professional senior specialist who is equipped to work side by side throughout the entire transaction can make it happen.