Moving house and settling in
Practical help

Moving home – helping elders settle in

It’s one thing deciding to move home because you ‘need to’ and quite another to do it. Here’s how to support the ‘last time buyer’…

Moving home and ‘right sizing’, in theory, allows us to declutter and let go of the material things that weigh us down.  Moving into a smaller, more easily maintained space may even release cash for travel and treats for us or our families. Older homeowners releasing cash from their homes took an average of £78,000 last year, it can be life-changing for the equity rich / cash poor and reduces outgoings.  Wealth can also be passed on free of inheritance tax if you ‘survive’ another 7 years.  However the older we get, the more overwhelming moving house can seem. Especially when you’re leaving your memory-filled family home, where you’ve had roots all your life.

I’ve already written about how Marj decided to move in with us here.

Whether moving home near or with relatives or into a care home, Marj’s and my experience of the subsequent moving process may help you too.  Here are our tips…

Get help moving home

All the family need to be involved.  They can all help, even in small ways whether simply giving encouragement or helping with the preparation.  It’s a stressful time for everyone so it’s a good idea to share the tasks.

Be clear about arrangements

Make sure you agree with the practicalities and implications with family members and that the interests of the elder are prioritised.  This may include financial and legal matters. The elder may intend to be generous with gifting possessions that might be better sold to help generate cash for their own treats or funding care, for example.

Allow plenty of time

The main thing when moving home is to allow plenty of time to get ready.  Marj’s daughter took time over many weekends to help Marj decide what she wanted to take with her. They went through all of Marj’s possessions together.  Deeply sentimental or valuable things were to go with Marj and were put in one corner of the spare bedroom.  Things to give away were placed in the opposite corner. Marj’s daughter noticed some things crisscrossed the room many times.

Going through photos, possessions and associated memories, most shared with her late husband, was deeply emotional for Marj.  Her daughter’s support was very important in this period.

Decluttering benefits others too

Her car and some larger furniture like the dining room table and chairs were gifted to a relative, other things to charity.  It really did make Marj happy to know that her things would help other people.

Keep familiar furniture and furnishings

Meanwhile, down south, Marj’s son and I measured up for Marj’s furniture and made sure it could all be fitted in using a floor plan on graph paper to double check.  It was a tight fit but we managed to fit most of it in, so Marj would continue to have familiar things around her.  This was definitely not the time to go minimal or ‘skandi’, just too discombobulating.

Storage only stores up challenges

We put some of Marj’s furniture in storage while she lived in our spare room for 6 months (during the build of her annexed rooms) but we weren’t tempted to leave anything in storage permanently.  Just as well. The burden of disposal would be too much now on top of everything else.

stoke pottery knick knacks
Beloved Stoke china

Maintain choice

Marj chose her kitchen, how her furniture was arranged and where the knick-knacks were placed.  We made sure everything was as safe as possible and that all her most precious things were on display.  Over the years, cupboard by cupboard we’ve had to donate things like long-unused kitchenware to charity, to make room for aids that help Marj stay in her home.  But I’m happy to say that everything of sentimental value has been kept.

Stay positive when moving home

Throughout, it’s really important to stay positive and help the elder focus on what they will gain from the move. I introduced Marj to local befriending groups where she did make one firm friend.

Living right next door to close family yet keeping herself to herself when she wanted was a big incentive. Joining family parties and seeing the great grand-kids are things Marj would have missed out on in Stoke.

Settling in

Celebrate the move and ask everyone to visit and give reassurance.  You’ll need to help the elder find their feet in their new community.  Think about what it would take to make you both comfortable and do it together, you may find new things that interest you too.  It’s a big move so make extra allowances. Small things like always having a vase of flowers in her sightline help Marj a lot too.

Make sure you look after yourself too.

Help from local authorities

Bucks Council offers help through Better Lives (updated Feb 2022) with support for older residents who need home improvements or help to move.  Since this article was first written, Hospital Discharge Grants of up to £10,000 for stairlifts and ramps, Relocation Grants of £20,000 and Essential Repair Grants of up to £10,000 seem to have been withdrawn from Bucks Council. Also, see my tips on hospital admission and discharge. Because all local authorities are different, others may have similar initiatives to support elders, so it’s worth checking.

So when is the right time to move?

Move earlier rather than later.  Move before a ‘crisis’ like a fall.  And the earlier we all start preparing for rightsizing, the easier it is and the wider the options open to us.  As soon as our house empties, we’ll be rightsizing for sure.

Make sure your current or future home can be adapted in the future.  I remember Marj asking when we were building her rooms, whether she could have an ‘upstairs’ like she was used to.  In actual fact, an ‘upstairs’ would only have been used for a year or so after she’d moved in with us and cost us all a lot more.

To housing policymakers, builders and designers

We all need more flexible housing that can accommodate people from 0-100yrs with all levels of mobility, to encourage us all to rightsize at the right time throughout our lives.  We also need more aesthetically pleasing bathroom ware that both looks great and is easy to use.  Just making sure doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs doesn’t cut it anymore – please help.

What’s your experience?  Do share…

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