The definition of “Golden Years” has changed in the 21st Century. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of seniors delaying retirement has increased dramatically since 1994. The number of active workforce participants age 65 and older is projected to reach 13 million in 2024! Instead of making an abrupt exit from the workplace, some workers retire in phases as they transition from full-time to part-time employment, then to full retirement. Some even “unretire”-- about three in ten workers return to the workplace within six years of retiring.
Within this generation of retirees, Baby Boomers and the GI Generation have a variety of housing needs. Those in pre- to early retirement may prefer a large house with room for grandchildren and other guests. Some seniors downsize to a more manageable property when teen and college-age grandkids are no longer able to spend vacations with them. “Half-back” retirees may live half the year in warmer climate and half the year closer to family, while older seniors might settle into a final home. This may mean moving to an independent senior community with a continuum of care.
When health or late-in-life circumstances change, living arrangements may need to change, too. One way to significantly ease the stress of late-life relocation is to begin the process of organizing and decluttering. The thought of sorting through decades of accumulated belongings often brings clouds of dread and panic. However, these organization tools can help simplify the process of downsizing or aging in place.
- Use colored sticky notes to sort items into categories: MOVE, MAYBE (move and decide later), SELL at auction, estate sale or yard sale, GIVE AWAY to family or friends, DONATE to charitable organizations, THROW OUT.
- Throw-out strategies: resist the “maybe we’ll need it sometime” mindset. If it hasn’t been touched in a year, throw it away. Consider if it’s worth the cost and effort to pack, move, and unpack. Still can’t decide? Put it in a sealed and dated box; if unopened a year later, throw it away.
- Give keepsakes to children: give childhood arts, crafts, and family photos to children; they may cherish them and use them to start their own family traditions. Receiving keepsakes may ease their pain of breaking ties to the family home. Ask children to sort items for themselves: TAKE NOW, TAKE NEXT TIME, GIVE AWAY, THROW AWAY.
- Allow time: most downsizing processes take 2-3 months. Begin the process before the house is listed. If it sells quickly, (or if there is a sudden change in health or life circumstance), there will be less time for accomplishing the tasks. Set a schedule by room, week, month, or other milestones. Spreading out the process will make it less emotionally wrenching.
- Prepare to feel good! When the process of decluttering is complete, most people feel relieved and good about reducing the amount of accumulated stuff.
When these tasks are beyond the capabilities of homeowners, or events necessitate a quick move, a Senior Real Estate Specialist Realtor can provide resources for professional service providers. The Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation is awarded to Realtors who have completed a series of educational courses on how to help seniors with later-in-life real estate transactions. They also draw upon the expertise of a network of senior specialists, such as estate planners, CPAs, and eldercare lawyers, and are familiar with local community resources and services. The mission of the SRES Realtor is to help seniors and their families navigate the maze of financial, legal and emotional issues that accompany the sale of the home. When the time comes to consider housing options for retirees, understanding what resources are available can significantly reduce stress and ease the process of relocating.