-Written by Erik Sargent
Moving can be an extremely difficult and emotionally challenging time for anyone, especially when it comes to seniors. Often times these moves require downsizing, parting ways with belongings and possessions they have owned for years, and leaving behind a home where priceless memories have been made.
The fall months bring a busy time for senior moves, as many retirees and seniors make the move to warmer climates in the southern and western regions of the country. According to SmartAssest.com, the five states most retirees relocate to are Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oregon.
With the drastic changes that come from not only downsizing but making a long-distance move of this nature, it’s important to work closely with the senior who’s making the big move to ensure they are being properly cared for, and that their emotional and physical needs are being tended to.
Senior move managers specialize in this field which involves everything from helping decide which belongings they might need to keep or get rid of, to finding a new place for them to live and helping them adjust to their new life.
“I think you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. So much of what is associated with aging is loss,” said Jennifer Pickett, the associate executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. “You may have lost a spouse, lost physical or cognitive abilities, lost a friend, or lost driving privileges. So when it comes to having to part with possessions that you’ve had for a lifetime or a family home, it’s not uncommon for older adults to draw a line in the sand and say ‘I’m not doing this’. This usually means that it’s overwhelming, and they don’t’ know where to begin.”
NASMM is a nonprofit trade association that represents professional senior move managers, and provides training and support to their members to help put them in the best position to work with aging seniors during this big life change.
“Working with older adults is very different than working with a normal, 35-year-old couple that is moving,” Pickett said. “There are legal issues, communication issues, safety issues, and ethical issues that need to be addressed. Senior move managers specialize in dealing with these specific issues to help families and the older adult client with the tremendous amount of emotional and physical stress that is associated with a move at that age.”
Hiring a senior move manager can serve as protection for the senior who is moving, and to ensure the entire process from start to finish is a smooth one.
Senior move managers do everything from working with the client to ensure the belongings they no longer need are properly handled or donated, and not just thrown away. They also put extensive work into finding the right living situation for the client, whether that be a new apartment, condo, or senior living facility.
“That’s sort of the beauty of bringing in a third party – senior move managers come in to alleviate some of that stress,” Pickett said. “They have the knowledge, the tools, and the resources to help the family through the process. So many times, we hear of adult children who think they can downsize the family home in 48 hours, and that’s just not possible. Not only is that not physically possible, it’s also emotionally damaging to the older adult.”
Aside from the work that senior move managers do, another key piece in the senior moving process is the actual moving company itself, as they are responsible for handling the customers’ belongings and streamlining the process. One company that prides itself on taking quality care of senior citizens is the international moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®, and they have built their brand around this motto.
With their company core value THE GRANDMA RULE® – to treat everyone the way you would want your Grandma to be treated – they have developed a niche for moving seniors, and even implement specialized training and practices for handling this delicate process.
“Our Raleigh and Durham locations have been certified as a dementia-friendly business by the Orange County Department on Aging,” said Jeanette Gulledge, multi-unit director of marketing for TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® locations in North Carolina and Georgia. “We thought this additional level of training would be beneficial for our teams as our business continues to grow. Quality health care options continue to be an important factor in attracting a growing number of retirees to the area. With this increase in retirees comes an increase in the potential number of people with various stages of dementia.”
The moving and sales teams at the Raleigh and Durham locations were provided training by the Orange County Department of Aging, which consisted of videos demonstrating the different stages of dementia and tendencies of people who are affected. It offered various insight to what they might encounter when working with this type of patient, and opened a door for discussion with the moving team.
“Since many of us having aging parents, the videos were very relatable and served as great learning tools,” Gulledge said. “We learned that many of our movers and drivers had experience working with clients who were dealing with dementia, and they shared their own best practices for delivering excellent customer service during these moves.”
As the population of seniors (classified as people ages 65 and over) continues to rise, so too will the importance of senior moving strategies and planning. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by the year 2060.
Continuing to learn about support seniors who are making big life moves, especially those with dementia or other serious diseases, is vital. It’s important to remember these interactions are special, and should be treated with dignity and care as this stressful process can be mentally and physically exhausting.
“Older adults need to be treated with dignity, as do their possessions,” Pickett said. “If you think about your own life, these possessions define you in a lot of ways. [We] have to help these adults part ways with their possession without parting ways with the memory.”