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How to Help A Senior Downsize After A Spouse’s Death

Many seniors have started downsizing in retirement. Instead of sticking with the big house they bought decades ago, they’re selling it and moving into a new home that’s smaller and more convenient.

This is a major life change, so it can generate some anxiety. If that senior also recently lost their spouse, they are facing a different set of challenges. That’s where you can help. By knowing whether downsizing is right for the senior and helping sort their belongings, you can make this change easier to handle. This is especially true if the senior is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

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Why Seniors Downsize After Losing A Spouse

For many seniors, downsizing is a great idea. Kiplinger explains that moving to a smaller home can help a senior save money, time, and effort. As they grow older in retirement, these savings can really help their quality of life. In addition, the loss of a spouse is a terrible event to endure. Moving can help the grieving process by having fewer reminders of the loss.

But how do you know if that senior is ready to downsize? There are a few questions to ask that can help make that decision.

  1. Do they need the extra money?

  2. Do they have a lot of equity in their old home?

  3. Has the area significantly changed since they bought the house?

  4. Is taking care of the property becoming troublesome?

How Seniors Can Downsize Comfortably

If you’ve convinced the senior that downsizing makes sense, it’s time to start sorting and packing. Because they’re moving into a smaller home, they will need to downsize their belongings as well. This includes the belongings of the spouse they lost. has some recommendations to make the sorting process go more smoothly:

  • Plan out the sorting and packing with plenty of time to spare. This process will take a while, and your senior friend might need time to reminisce and process feelings of grief. Start early, and break the process down into pieces instead of planning all of it in one weekend.

  • Help the senior focus on possessions that are used the most. Some possessions will need to be discarded. If that VCR hasn’t been used in years, it can probably go.

  • If the senior has any heirlooms or legacy gifts, encourage them to give these special items away to family now. This can keep treasured mementos in the family while having less to move.

Since this move is going to be emotionally trying for the senior, make sure you communicate well. Show respect and care by giving the senior time to process the emotions brought up by the move. Expect that there will be some sadness and anxiety. Give the senior the room to experience these emotions.

Helping A Senior With Alzheimer’s To Downsize

If your senior friend has Alzheimer’s, they can still downsize both their home and possessions after the death of their spouse. It just takes a little more help from you.

  • Although you might be tempted to leave them out of the process, it’s better to involve them as much as possible. This helps the senior feel respected and independent.

  • Bring them to their new home. Walk around the place with them so they can start to feel comfortable there. Since Alzheimer’s can affect memory, be prepared to do this a few times.

  • Stay positive through it all. Anxiety and stress can be contagious. If you are clearly upset during the downsizing, your senior friend will likely get upset as well. When a senior with Alzheimer’s sees you’re doing fine, they’re more likely to stay calm.

Downsizing Can Be Done With A Senior

Any move can be stressful, but when a senior is also grieving the loss of their spouse, the challenges can seem insurmountable to them. That’s why you need to help the senior know when it’s time to downsize and how to sort through their possessions. Alzheimer’s or not, your senior friend needs your assistance.

written by: Michael Longsdon

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