As my parents told me at an early age, change is the only constant in life. Over the past 15 plus years, I have been fortunate to have been able to guide my clients through important life changes by helping them achieve their real estate goals. Whether the client it was a first-time buyer who took his first step down the road of home ownership or an investor who was changing his financial future, all to some degree changed their lives by buying or selling a home.
Perhaps the most life-altering transitions have occurred for my older clients. Faced with the changes that come with aging, many of these clients have had to sell the place they’ve called home for 40 or more years. They raised children in those homes, created lasting memories, and collected a LOT of “stuff.” But, they reached a point when that home and that “stuff” was no longer appropriate for the current chapter of their lives. The stairs, the maintenance, the yard, and yes, the “stuff” – it was time to simplify.
While some have had the decision forced upon them due to financial or medical issues, several have been proactive in their approach to “rightsizing” their lives. They knew that something needed to change, but they weren’t sure what options are available or how to go about the process. Most of our conversations when we first met began with a simple question: “Now what?”
Fortunately, there are several options for these clients. Because each person has a unique situation, the most critical first step is for me to understand their current AND future needs. Only then can I present the choices that make the most sense for them. Sometimes this means bringing in other professionals – financial, legal, emotional – to help them assess their lives. This provides my clients with invaluable input into the process. After this assessment, I generally guide my clients down one of three paths.
Modifying the current home
Maybe the current home suits their needs well in many ways – it is in good condition, it is not too big to take care of, etc. – and just a few modifications would make it perfect for the foreseeable future. If we determine that this is a viable option, a care manager will tour the home with them and help them evaluate what needs to be done. From there we will work with specialists in the field of “aging in place” who will create and install the necessary modifications, from hand rails and grab bars to ramps and stair lifts. At the same time my partners at Silver Linings Transitions, a senior move management company that specializes in helping seniors with their “stuff,” will work with our clients to help them sort, organize, and pare down their belongings in order to create a more simplified living environment.
Moving to a different home
If my clients’ current home cannot be modified appropriately but they want to still have their own home, the next step would be to determine if they should buy a home or rent one. There are several factors (including legal, financial, and tax) that come into play, and appropriate professionals should be consulted to help make this decision. In these situations, I will help my client sell their current home and either purchase a new home or help them rent one. With some, I will bring in the appropriate professionals who will make modifications so that they can enjoy their new home safely for years to come. Silver Linings Transitions will make the transition easier by doing the sorting, packing, and unpacking for them.
Moving to a senior community
It is still a common conception – or misconception – that senior living communities are like the one we remember from years ago. In fact, the communities of today are more like cruise ships on land. They offer incredible food, social activities and interaction, beautiful buildings and amenities, and much more. Still, most of my clients are hesitant to move into a senior community because they don’t want to “lose their independence” (their words, not mine). In fact, the opposite has been true for my clients who have moved into a senior community. No longer tied down by cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the home, they can come and go as they please and enjoy new experiences. They have actually GAINED independence.
Senior communities offer three main levels of care – independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Some communities offer one or two levels while others offer all three. Communities have slight variations within those three levels, and they can help you determine which one is most appropriate.
With so many senior living choices out there, how does someone begin to understand what’s best for them? This is when I will introduce my client to a placement professional. A placement professional will learn what my client needs and wants in a community and will tour the best choices with them. Because the placement professional is paid by the community my client ultimately chooses, their services are free. Again, regardless of which community they call home, my client’s move is made easier by the services provided by Silver Linings Transitions.
Top 5 questions to ask yourself when making the decision
Most seniors, regardless of their age, feel they are “not ready” to move into a senior community. My response has always been, “Not ready for what?” I ask this question to find out if they truly understand today’s senior living. Once they discover what senior communities can offer, the most common question becomes, “When is the right time?” My response is simple: if you’re asking the question, it’s may be now. I then delve further to help them come to the decision themselves.
Here are the top 5 questions to ask yourself when making the decision to move into a senior community:
1. Do you still enjoy preparing your own meals? Some communities have full kitchens in the apartments, so cooking is still an option. But, do you want to HAVE to do it?
2. Do you prefer social interaction with others versus being mostly alone? This may be possible for some who remain in their home, but it gets increasingly difficult as the ability to drive goes away.
3. Do you like to participate in activities? Communities have a wide variety of activities to help stimulate the mind, exercise the body, and provide total enrichment.
4. Would you rather not clean your home? Most communities provide cleaning service, so you won’t have to ever buy a vacuum again.
5. Are you young enough and healthy enough to enjoy this lifestyle now?
This last question is the most important. By saying they’re “not ready,” many wait until the decision is no longer in their hands. A fall, a broken hip, the inability to perform the acts of daily living, these are the typical reasons why seniors who are reactive rather than proactive eventually move from their home and into a senior community. Unfortunately, they are often not able to enjoy many of the benefits of senior community living.
My purpose in what I do is to help my clients make informed decisions for their futures and provide the resources they need to take action – whatever action that may be. By being proactive, they can make the changes they need to make in order to live their brightest tomorrows.
Bryan is a Realtor with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty and has been serving his clients’ real estate needs since 2003. He holds the Senior Real Estate Specialist accreditation and provides a wide range of services for seniors who are in transition. He also hosts Senior Savers, a new reality TV show that educates seniors and their families about resources available to help seniors live their brightest tomorrows.