Some say there is a stigma attached to moving to a senior living community, one which we think is outdated and incorrect. Not only does it make the complicated process of downsizing unnecessarily emotionally charged, but it does a disservice to people who have worked hard all their lives to enjoy their later years living in a lively community of their peers, free of home maintenance and without worries about health care or security. The conflation of Life Plan communities like ours with the nursing homes of yore aren’t only wrong, they’re as outdated as rotary phones, Super 8 cameras, and typewriters. As much as some people might be nostalgic for them, they’ve been updated, and senior living communities are no different.
So, when looking at the decision to move to a Life Plan community in this new light, it’s hard to see it as anything but a positive. Now, that’s not always such a simple change of heart for the person, or couple, doing the downsizing. If you’ve made the decision to move to a Life Plan community, or if you’re helping a family member through the process, here are our tips for how to make the process a positive one.
Take Your Time
You’ve always been a planner, so why go about this move any differently? If you’re moving to a Life Plan community, then you’ve made the decision to do so proactively. Many people envision this process as a hasty reaction after an illness, or a fall, or some other uncontrolled event that will sadly make the decision for you. In reality, that’s not how it works, and anyone moving to a Life Plan community is healthy, active, and fully capable. So, give yourself the time to go through the process of downsizing. Comb through all the possessions you’ve acquired and give them their due while deciding what you want and what you no longer need.
It takes time to properly go through a home’s worth of items. Taking time, outlined above, is one way to give yourself the necessary time to donate or dispose of certain items, select and prepare others for your move, and finally process and detach from some of the items that are harder to let go of but you know you don’t really need anymore.
But no matter how excited you might be about what the next stage in life may hold, or how much help you have, this is a new process for most people. We go through life adding things, not removing them, and you don’t have to be good at this when you start. By beginning in spare bedrooms, or the basement, or even the linen closet, you can practice going through things that you have less of an emotional connection with.
Pass It On
You don’t have to throw everything away. Most people that are downsizing have things that belong to their kids, or other family members, or family heirlooms that are intended to be passed down. So, part of your process should be to get those family members involved and either return these to their owners or pass down items that you want them to have.
Another option is donating items that you don’t need anymore. There will be plenty of things, from pots and pans to placemats and curtains, that you won’t necessarily feel the need to keep, or want to pass down to family, or throw away. Donating at your local salvation army, a transition house for people transitioning out of a shelter, a thrift store, or church is a great way to give those items a new home. If you’re feeling up for it, a yard sale or an eBay sale can be a great way to hand these items off to new owners.
The hardest things to pass down, or donate, or sell are the things that you have an emotional connection to. Your record collection. Your varsity jacket. Your wedding china. But just because your new apartment home doesn’t have room for your entire collection doesn’t mean you can’t bring a few favorites. And, chances are, you don’t really wear that varsity jacket anymore, so take the letter off and have it framed, making it easy to find a place for in your new home, and you’ll see it more often and appreciate the memories it brings. And while you may be able to pass down the gravy boat, the serving platters, and the teacups to family members, bring two place settings of your favorite china for you and your spouse. Getting creative with what you bring can enable you to bring all those memories with you, and have room for all the items you bring.
And what about the letters, photos, home movies, and all the other documentation that you’ve accrued over the course of raising your family and living your life? In times gone past, you may have had to make tough choices about these things, but now you can simply digitize them. Scanning photos, converting films and music, and copying old letters can make storing all of these things as easy as putting a hard drive on your bookshelf. There are services that will do this for you, with very satisfying results.
The decision to downsize, and to move into a Life Plan community like The Huntington at Nashua or Hunt Community, is an exciting opportunity. While it’s always bittersweet moving from one stage of the life to another, the biggest tip we have for anyone involved in this process is embracing constant evolution, just like you did when you were younger. Life moves forward, and as you go along you’re always progressing. Getting rid of your things doesn’t mean you’re less of yourself than you were with all the stuff, you’re just the next version of you.