I have written two books on the subject of older adults transitioning from their long-time home to a senior community or apartment. My experience came solely from my clients over the years. I observed patterns of behavior as well as obstacles to be overcome. I designed my business team to serve the families that I was honored to assist through their transition.
Enter my mother. A few months ago, my mother who is 91 had a minor stroke but fortunately retained all of her physical health except for balance issues. This was a warning sign which changed mom’s outlook for the future. She lived alone in a condominium. My father had passed 10 years ago. They were married for 61 years and living alone was tough at first but as we all must do she changed her outlook and became independent. The plan was to spend the rest of her life in the home she shared with my father. You can make your plans in life but you can’t plan the results!
After this health incident, her confidence was shaken and living alone became a challenge. Her major worry was that a fall could end her independence. She decided to move to my sister’s home and then decide what to do. After a few months living with 3 dogs, grandchildren and limited living space, she decided it was time to look at an alternative. She didn’t want to be a burden to my sister (my sister would have loved her to stay).
Like many of you out there, this story may sound quite familiar. If you are a baby boomer you have most likely dealt with a similar situation. If you haven’t you most likely will. For you the older adult, you know how truly daunting a move can be and many of you will do all you can to put off that move to a new lifestyle. Like my mom, many of you are able to navigate your home but isolation and a home that no longer works for you can cause havoc and in many cases sadness or even depression.
At first my mother was apprehensive and somewhat upset. A combination of anger, loss, and fear began to overwhelm her. My experience taught me one important lesson. The best antidote to fear is knowledge and information. I asked my mom if she would join me for dinner at Laurel Oakes, a senior community in Glendale that I thought would be perfect for her. She agreed. I asked my siblings in town to join us for this important meal.
We were put at a guest table and treated with kindness and warmth by all who worked at this senior community. Three different women came up to my mother and introduced themselves. They all assured her that their table was open for her to join them when and if she decided to move there. I could see a change in mom’s demeanor and her fear became a sort of quiet joy. I watched her as she looked around at the activity and humanity surrounding our table. After the meal we toured an apartment and once again there was that glimmer of hope for the future.
A few weeks later I received a phone call from mom saying she wanted to go back and take one more look at the apartment. We stopped out there and met with the marketing director who was so kind and understanding. In the apartment we went, and walked out with a signed lease! I was shocked that my mom pulled the trigger that quickly. There was a sense of peace and acceptance from mom. I could see that having one foot at my sister’s home and one foot in her condo took a toll on her. Now that pressure was lifted!
We then used my partner’s services to make her move as easy as possible. Our moving date was May 1st. I needed to sell her condo which involved downsizing and staging. My wife and siblings stopped out to see which items would go to which family members and then what furniture would fit in her new apartment. We accomplished this in one weekend.
Then the move was planned. The packing and sorting company came on the morning of May 1st and moved her in the afternoon of the same day! They even put up pictures and knickknacks so she would immediately feel like it was her home.
The next week we had the movers deliver all of the items left in her condo to family members and the rest was taken to charity. Now her condo was totally empty. Next came the painter, using colors that my stager chose to please the typical buyer for this type of condo. After that we installed new carpeting and kitchen flooring. Next came my stager and she brought some furniture to make it shine. A vacant property shows poorly and drastically affects the value in a negative way, so using my own advice I followed the same plan I have suggested to so many clients in the past.
The rest is history. The condo is going on the market as we speak, and I’m confident it will sell in a week or two as do almost all staged properties priced competitively.
I wanted to share my own family’s story with you because this is such a difficult time for our parents. So often we don’t know where to start and what to do when mom or dad’s long-time home is no longer an option. I hope my story will give you the information you need to help your loved one when the time comes. By using the many services available and gaining the information you will need you can make an overwhelming move become reality in a relatively short period of time. I can tell you that my partners made my mother’s transition a smooth and easy move and without them I don’t know how we would have done it!
Bruce Nemovitz is a Senior Real Estate Specialist, as well as Certified Senior Advisor. Bruce has sold residential homes in the four county Milwaukee-Metro areas for 35 years. He has published a book called “Moving in the Right Direction”, A Senior’s Guide to Moving and Downsizing. Bruce has just written his second book for the children of seniors, “Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction”, Practical Advice about Seniors Moving from the Home They Love. This book is now available at www.GuidingOurParents.com. Past articles about moving and downsizing and other important information can be found at www.BrucesTeam.com. Bruce received the 2010 “Realtor of the Year” from the 3,800 membership of the GMAR (Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors). Bruce is a featured speaker at several senior communities in the Milwaukee-Metro area. His discussions center on the challenge of moving from a long time home into a senior apartment or community. He has been listed in Milwaukee Magazine’s 5-Star Agents list for the last three years in a row. As such, he’s one of only a handful of Realtors who are continually included in the top 7% in client satisfaction in the Milwaukee Metro area. He’s rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, and was a finalist for Concordia College’s Ethical Business Leadership Award. He works with his wife Jeanne at Realty Executives Integrity.