Sometimes, it takes a village to move Mom and Dad.
For seniors, relocating to a new home can be incredibly complex. For one thing, if they’ve lived in the same place for decades, the prospect of sorting out a lifetime of possessions can be overwhelming for them and their grown children. For another, coping with changed routines and environments can generate an avalanche of emotion.
Enter the "senior move manager," a profession that has sprung up in the past decade to provide soup-to-nuts services intended to get the senior from Home "A" to Home "B" with minimal disruption.
Move managers say demand for their specialty is growing both because the enormous baby boom generation is aging and because we live in an era where it’s not unusual for adult offspring to live far from their parents.
"I’m the in-town daughter," explains Nan Hayes, who runs Right-Sized Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill., which specializes in organizing senior relocations. She says many senior clients have children in the so-called "sandwich generation" who not only may be living several states away, but also are limited by obligations to their own children and to demanding careers.
In addition to her relocation company, Hayes also has helped to develop a credentialing procedure for the various professions — real estate agents, home stagers, movers, appraisers, estate-sale companies, contractors and others — who may be tapped by the move manager to sort, pack, transport possessions, and buy or sell properties on behalf of seniors.
MoveSeniors.com awards the Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist (CRTS) designation to professionals who have had training in basic medical, health and mental issues related to senior clients, as well as personal-property management, space planning, packing, sorting, organizing, downsizing and preparing homes for sale, she said. About 600 providers in the United States and Canada have the credential, she said.
Some families may need more help from senior specialists than others, she said.
"It’s generally a menu of services," she said. "We can go in and do an assessment-and-planning piece that the kids may go ahead and execute themselves. …CONTINUED
"Or (coordinators) can do everything from sorting, packing, floor plans (for a new, downsized residence), unpacking and resettlement," she said. The services, as desired, may include hanging pictures or organizing the kitchen cabinets or arranging for the transport of pets.
"Their new home should reflect, somewhat, their original home," Hayes said. "We place the same items on the dresser, the same items that sit on the table next to their favorite chair. If they had the remote control and a coaster on it when we set up the house, we duplicate those settings."
That last piece may be critical to a successful adjustment for the advanced-age senior, said Adrienne Simpson, president of Smooth Mooove Senior Relocation Services in Stone Mountain, Ga.
"If the first time they see their new home it looks like ‘home,’ it can make the next stage easier," Simpson said. "We help reduce some of the anxiety."
Simpson said her principal business is a moving company, but her decision to expand into coordinating other senior-move services grew from personal experience.
"I discovered it eight years ago when I had to move my mom," Simpson said. "I saw how fragmented the process was — somebody had to sort it, clear it, pack it, move it, unpack it. Somebody needed to streamline it."
Simpson is a member of another accrediting group, the National Association of Senior Move Managers, which says costs can vary widely by region and, of course, by the extent of services requested by the family. Some managers charge by the hour, while others quote package rates, the group says.
"A lot of people have asked me, ‘What’s so special about moving a senior?’ " she said. "Most seniors move because they have to move, not because they want to. They may have lost a spouse — they don’t want to be in this big house by themselves. It may be overwhelming them.
"I’ll tell you, at the end of the day, sometimes I feel like a social worker," she said.
Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.
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