With more Americans living well into their 80s and 90s, at times a choice needs to be made about more manageable living situations. Sometimes these moves may involve moving in with relatives, finding a smaller home or apartment, or living in an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
Francine Packard, program supervisor of Valley Counseling in Warren, believes that downsizing during late adulthood does not have to be an upsetting transition.
"Downsizing could be a positive adjustment if the individual is willing to accept the fact that their life is changing," Packard said. "Those who have positively dealt with crisis in the past are able to accept change."
Lisa Solley, chief of community relations for Area Agency on Aging 11, said that downsizing should be approached in a proactive manner.
"Relatives should not wait for a crisis to happen or a day they need to move their elderly loved one when it comes to downsizing," Solley said. "It's better to go through things one at a time, in advance with older relatives.
''Some people have 50 years of keepsakes piled up in their house. This causes downsizing to be overwhelming. It's important to clean one drawer at a time and decide what articles of clothing will be passed down or donated to charity," she said.
Throughout a grandparent or older relative's journey into late adulthood, Packard said that it is always important for them to have familial support.
"In order for an older relative to transition, they must have a positive support system from their families," she said. "Senior citizens need a choice and a voice and to feel independent as much as possible."
These choices can include what to keep, donate or pass down, or anything a family support system can accommodate to make their older relative feel a level of independence.
Marlin Palich, manager at Northwood Reality in Warren, is approaching his 34th year as a Realtor. Palich said that helping a relative during late adulthood should make this transition a team effort among family members.
"Patience is a big step in the downsizing process," Palich said. "The relative might have lived in the property for a long time, and there are a lot of memories. It's a big step and most importantly, change can be difficult for people as they get older."
Solley said another issue during downsizing is the fact that families put off discussing the situation until it erupts into an urgent matter that has to be addressed immediately. She said that downsizing can be a non-stressful experience. Family support and proper communication is the key.
"It's good to help a senior relative downsize their items together as a family unit," Solley said.
Streamlining and giving away items from the past can be a difficult task to complete alone for a senior citizen who is downsizing.
"Not every individual during late adulthood is a hoarder," Packard said. "In some cases, the reason why older people have so much is that they have lived in their houses for so long.
''Family needs to give older relatives time in selecting what belongings are a necessity and also select items that are a comfort to them, such as a bed or furniture - anything that makes them feel a sense of home as they are moving out of their original homes," Packard said.
"It's important to go through items together, such as pictures or scrapbooks," Solley said. "These moments are ways for grandparents to share stories with their grandchildren and relatives.
''It's important for families to take the time, so they do not have to rush through these meaningful items. The senior relative can take the time to pass down these pictures and scrapbooks to their younger relatives. It gives children a chance to learn things about grandma or grandpa that they never knew before," Solley said.
A positive focus about the future can be helpful in maintaining a serene transition.
"Making that transition is hard for senior citizens because they seek security through the memories," Palich said. "The idea here is 'let's make new memories in a new place.'"