When it comes time to retire, your children are grown and you start to age, the big family home may start to be a little too much to handle. For that reason, many seniors choose to downsize by selling and moving into a smaller place or a senior living community.
“The physical act of moving has an impact beyond just downsizing,” says Janna Zaidspiner, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens, an Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care community in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. “For many individuals, it’s the chance to begin a new chapter of their life fresh and clear in a space that’s designed for their needs. That can be incredibly liberating, but it can also be difficult, not just for them but also for their adult children.”
Even when your kids are grown and on their own, the act of moving away from the family home can be a jolt for them. After all, it’s the home they grew up in and where their memories of childhood live. It’s also a startling realization that their parents are aging and everything else that goes along with it. An extra layer of consideration comes into play if you’re a senior with adult children still living at home (not an uncommon thing these days).
That’s why, says Zaidspiner, it’s important to navigate this conversation with understanding and empathy, but also have a clear plan in place. “Although the priority is your life moving forward and taking your needs into consideration, it will make the process a lot less stressful if you include your children in the conversation. Your kids may rightly have concerns and may have to deal with their emotions as well. Ultimately, however, your adult children will want to know that you’re happy, you’re making this decision thoughtfully and that important possessions and your shared memories will not just be tossed away.”
Beginning the Discussion
Give your children plenty of notice. While it’s not necessary for you to keep your children informed of your entire thought process from beginning to end, it’s a good idea to begin speaking to them about your plans well before you will be acting on them. If you’re still a few years out from downsizing, continue reminding them of your plans as time goes by, informing them of any developments. Giving notice is especially important if you’re helping your kids out financially, or if you’re one of the 47 percent of families that still have their adult children living with them.
Bring the family together. Once you’ve made a decision and have a plan put together, consider hosting a family gathering to discuss everything. It’s a chance for you to share your thought process and allow your adult children to ask questions, raise concerns and put together plans of their own. A family gathering is an excellent opportunity for you to begin the process of passing down family heirlooms or mementos.
Understand where they’re coming from. It’s possible your kids will be upset at your decision and will react negatively. Keep in mind that they may not be grieving the loss of physical items or the home itself, but are more upset about the fact that you are aging and changing. If this is the case, be understanding and give them space and time to reach a state of acceptance.
Explain why downsizing is important to you. Understanding why you’re downsizing may be enough to help your kids accept and come to terms with the decision. Perhaps you’re having physical difficulty navigating your home, and you want to move to a place that has fewer stairs. Or you’re having a hard time or are simply tired of cleaning everything, especially when you only use a few rooms in your home.
Be firm in your decision. Stay calm and gently remind your adult children that this is your life and you have a right to make your own decisions based on your requirements and preferences. Even if you feel pressured, it’s important to not change your mind or hold on to items that you don’t want simply because someone else wants you to.
Continuing the Discussion
Let your children choose what they want to keep. Allow your children to go through the house and make note of items they’d like to have. While this could mean family pieces like a dining room table you won’t need or a large armoire that won’t fit in your new space, have them look through any boxes you’re already planning on giving to charity. There may be items in there that don’t mean anything to you but they may have sentimental meaning to them, like a particular Christmas decoration or a set of dishes from their childhood. If you have any items of theirs that you’ve been holding onto for them, like high school awards or favorite childhood books, now is the perfect time to hand them off.
Begin phasing out financial support if necessary. If you’ve been helping your children out with bills or any other expenses, now is the time to slowly start withdrawing your contributions. At this time of your life, you will need to focus on your lifestyle moving forward, as you will more than likely begin spending more on healthcare and other necessities. By starting early, you will make the withdrawal process as painless as possible for everyone involved.
Determine what to do with the items you (and your kids) don’t want. After you and your adult children have gone through your items and determined what to keep, figure out what you will do with the rest of the items that won’t be going with you. If you have a large number of items, consider having an auctioneer or an appraiser come to determine their value. You can also work with an auction house or other company to hold an estate sale. Depending on how much work you want to do, you can sort through items to determine what you want to sell on your own and what to give to charity or friends.
For more information on speaking with your adult children about downsizing, or how we can provide a safe, fulfilling life for you or a loved one, please contact our team at YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens at 561-246-6102.
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