Downsizing, let alone moving, can be difficult no matter who you are. For a senior, especially if resistant to the idea, either event may be extremely stressful. If a move is involved and was planned well in advance, and the elder is on board, there may be no problem.
Too often, though, the need to move (whether to suitable senior housing or in with family), or to downsize, arrives without little notice. Though family and friends may be eager to help, they may not have the skills, patience and understanding to alleviate their loved one’s anxiety. While the goal may be achieved, it could be at the cost of strained relationships.
Over the last 30 years or so, these scenarios have become increasingly common. What’s needed, then, is an impartial, a sympathetic and knowledgeable professional to act as a buffer between the elder and loved ones while facilitating the changes needed to make the elder safe and comfortable, able to move on to their next life phase.
This is when you contact a Senior Moving Service (SMS).
What Does a Senior Moving Service do?
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the US saw the development of moving companies geared specifically to aid seniors. A Senior Moving Service provides trained staff headed by a Senior Move Manager (SMM) who orchestrates the moving process, from beginning to end, all the while listening to all involved and offering needed practical and emotional support.
Because the full range of assistance may not be needed, the senior moving service should be willing to contract to do what is needed, allowing others (the elder, family, friends) to take care of the rest.
Most senior moving services are happy to work with anyone, regardless of age or physical condition, though they are specialists in assisting the elderly. It is common for Senior Move Managers to be hired by older adults and families, but also by lawyers, bankers, doctors, and other healthcare providers, geriatric care managers, realtors, senior living communities, and social service providers and social workers, among others.
While a skilled Senior Move Manager and their staff are capable of all that is necessary to achieve an organized move or downsizing, first and foremost is their ability to make the event stress-free as possible. The Senior Move Manager asks questions and listens, getting to know the senior and everyone else involved in the transition, the better to effect a painless transition.
Is a Senior Moving Service Worth the Money?
The short answer would appear to be a firm “Yes.” A reasonably priced senior moving service would significantly shorten the whole process, permitting the senior and the family members to deal with issues only they can, and without having to deal with every little thing. It affords them all the time in which to ease into the changes that are happening.
Among the tasks a senior moving service can perform are the following:
- For those elders needing senior housing, the SMM can help the elder find a new home.
- Evaluating the new space to determine how many possessions the elder can bring and designing a floorplan for where each item will go. The SMM could also suggest how to maximize the new space, installing approved fixtures (whether for safety, ease of use, or added storage). The same methods could be applied to adapting the senior’s current living space.
- If the elder’s current residence needs to be sold, they might consider hiring an SMM who is also a realtor. In this case, there must be a conversation about the distinction between the responsibilities of the SMM and the realtor to avoid any overlapping of services or repetition of fees.
If the realtor and SMM are two separate people, the latter needs to coordinate with the realtor about what items are to remain with the house and regarding any other concerns the realtor may have.
- Assisting and – to the degree requested – organizing or directing the downsizing process.
- A qualified SMM has a network of experts for whatever task is needed: Moving delicate or heavy items; appraising items that are to be sold or donated, etc.
Packing all items to be moved. Special attention will be paid to all electronic devices and their breakdown and setup requirements.
- If the client wants an item mailed, the staff would pack it up and take it to the appropriate carrier (e.g., USP, FedEx).
- Arranging for the sale of (craigslist, e.g., or a commission sale) or auctioning of selected items. An SMM can also setup (organizing, physically pricing) and oversee a garage, lawn or estate sale.
- Discussing with the elder and/or family their favored donation sites for items that haven’t sold and are not wanted. The SMM’s staff can drop them off as directed.
- Arrange for a storage unit, whether during the downsizing or after, at the current or new residence.
- If a move is involved, the SMM will either recommend a moving company or sit in on interviews with potential movers. (It is also understood that the SMM and team must communicate well with the people or staff running the senior’s new residence.)
- If the move involves a significant distance, the original Senior Moving Service may not be able to be present to oversee the unpacking. In that case, they would try to arrange for another SMS to step in at the new destination. The former would coordinate with the latter concerning the client’s expectations and needs.
- For relatively local moves, many SMMs have moving boxes they will lend, free of charge, to the client. If the move is long-range and the SMM won’t be there to retrieve the boxes, the price per box should be competitive with other local vendors.
- The SMM at the destination will work with the movers. The SMM and staff will unpack the items at the new residence, putting them in place and reconnecting all electronic devices. If alterations need to be made to the original floorplan agreed upon earlier, the SMM will assist in accommodating the elder.
- Cleaning up, both at the former and new residence and assisting the client personally are also part of the services.
All in all, the mission is to help the elder settle into their new home while also taking the pressure off the elder and their family. Facility staff would also appreciate this added assistance.
Who Should Become a Senior Move Manager?
There are several characteristics successful Senior Move Managers share. Among them is a genuine desire to help an older person organize their life, especially during what can be a wrenching and disorienting time. Patience and compassion tempered with objectivity and a grasp of the practical issues like time and space management are necessary to achieve the desired results. They must also be flexible, ready to change the game plan as circumstances alter.
A reliable SMM is aware that, as technology progresses, and this new industry continues to develop, attending conferences and staying abreast of developments in their field is crucial.
How to Find a Qualified Senior Moving Service
To find a reliable SMS, you could begin by asking people you know, or just go online. Keep in mind that choosing an SMS that is a member of a recognized organization, such as The National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) ensures there will be a code of conduct with which the SMS must comply. Should the client have a complaint, there is an ethics board to which to apply. Any business allied with NASMM or some similar oversight organization will no doubt make that clear.
Once you begin the interview process, here are some key questions to ask:
- How long has the SMS been in business?
- Does the SMS have insurance?
- What about references?
- Do they have an experienced staff and outside resources including movers, packers (including experts in dealing with electronics), and experts in pricing saleable items?
- Is the SMS staff required to engage in ongoing education? Are they attending – if not also presenting at – industry conferences, reading industry-related publications, and taking courses such as those offered via the NASMM website?
- Ask yourself if you find the SMM to be a good listener, asking pertinent questions, displaying sincere interest.
- What do online customer reviews say about the pros and cons of this company’s services?
Making a life change of this caliber – whether it’s a matter of decluttering to make a space safer and easier to use or a move to a new residence – doesn’t have to be painful. There are cheerful, competent people who can help, and at a reasonable price.