Helping Your Loved One Downsize to Senior Living

Today, many senior adults are leaving their homes of many years to move to personal care or assisted living communities. In fact, this type of senior living is now the most popular and fastest growing housing option among seniors in the US according to the article, Safety and Quality Contribute to Popularity of Assisted Living.”

As noted in the article, “The Joys of Downsizing Your Home,” those who make the move to senior living ultimately trade the time, money, energy and stress spent on maintaining their home and health for the ease, security, social engagement and free time of a community lifestyle.

The Personal Care Lifestyle: Where the Living Is Carefree, Engaging and Stress Free

While the home is where the heart is, it can also become a continuing burden for senior adults. This is particularly true for seniors who are now living alone or who have physical limitations that can make the home unmanageable or unsafe for them. According to gerontologists and healthy aging experts, social isolation, the potential of falls, an unhealthy diet and boredom are all considered to be serious risk factors for the physical and emotional health of seniors.

The advantages of downsizing to a vibrant personal care community are many and include valuable physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits that can “upsize” your lifestyle. Examples include: 

  • Eliminating home maintenance and yard work
  • Feeling safe and secure night and day 
  • Healthy social engagement and enriching lifestyle activities 
  • Wellness programs
  • Supportive care
  • Free transportation that eliminates the need for driving (is this correct?)

All of these are designed to give seniors the freedom and independence they want with just the right amount of support.

Overcoming the Challenges of Downsizing 

“Despite the numerous lifestyle advantages, downsizing for a move to senior living can also present some challenges, says Collin Tierney, Executive Director and Administrator of Bryn Mawr Terrace in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“Experts say that for many senior adults, downsizing and moving out of their home of many years can be a difficult change – even when it is clearly in their best interest.Therefore, itis important for adult children and other family members to be as empathetic, supportive and encouraging as possible to their loved one.”

In addition to the emotions seniors feel when moving out of their home of many years, experts also highlight the logistical challenges of downsizing for the move. When downsizing, they say it is most important to keep the items that are most meaningful and which preserve pleasant memories for your senior loved one. These can usually be placed in their new personal care or assisted living apartment. Less important items identified during downsizing, such as furniture can be sold, can be given to other family members or donated to charitable organizations.

9 Senior Downsizing Tips from Experts

Fortunately, there are a variety of good resources and articles on downsizing that can help you and your senior loved one to get off to a good start. For example,, the Family Caregiver Alliance article,“Downsizing a Home: A Checklist for Caregivers” and “11 Strategies for Downsizing for a Move to Assisted Living” offer useful tips for downsizing.

Some of the most valuable downsizing suggestions include:

  1. Get organized – Think about the size of the new space your senior loved one will be living in and plan your downsizing accordingly.
  2. Ditch the clutter –Shred, toss or give away obvious items such as old cancelled checks, outdated food or medications, clothes, or extraneous household items that just take up space.
  3. Take it one step (or room) at a time – Plan on going through one room at a time. Start with the easiest. Don't try to pack now, just sort items for downsizing.
  4. Divide and conquer – Divide furniture and possessions into four categories:
    • Definitely save (these are the most useful, most beloved, most meaningful items)
    • Possibly save (you'll need to revisit these later, and continue paring down)
    • Donate, sell or giving away to a friend
    • Discard
  5. Locate and secure important documents – Important documents should be located to either go with your loved one when they move or to be kept in a safe place with you until they are needed. Examples include deeds, wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, medical records, military records, diplomas and degrees, birth certificates, passports, etc.
  6. Secure prized possessions –There are certain things your family member won’t be willing to give up, for either sentimental reasons or monetary value. Consider moving anything that fits either of those categories to a secure location so that it is not lost or accidentally discarded during the move. If your loved one needs time to think before putting something in a discard pile or a donate bin, provide a third "undecided" option. Sometimes this is a necessary step when downsizing. Keep compassion a priority above your need to get the process completed.
  7. Take time for cherished memories – Packing for a move often means going through old photos and belongings that may evoke powerful memories. Allow your loved one plenty of time to reflect on the past, particularly if the memories are happy ones.
  8. Keep it upbeat – While leaving behind a home full of old memories can be difficult for any senior, you can raise their spirits by focusing on the positives. Talk about the new adventures that await them, the many fun activities they will have available to enjoy, and the visits you and their friends will be making to have lunch with them. While one chapter may be closing, another new chapter is opening for them with your support and encouragement. Only their address will be changing and all the people who love them will still be in their life.
  9. Ease the move –When it’s time for your loved one to make the move to their new space, plan on spending the day with them.Help them to organize their new space and work asquickly as you can to make it feel like home for them. 

After downsizing to senior living, try to spend as much time with them as you can for a few weeks after the move to make sure they are comfortable, getting acclimated to their new environment and feeling supported. You can also encourage their friends and other family members to continue to make frequent visits so they never feel abandoned.

Leading senior living communities such as Bryn Mawr Terrace also encourage visits to the community before moving day to promote familiarity, confidence and the opportunity to make new friends and experience the community’s social engagement activities first hand. 

Collin adds, “By following these useful tips, you can help your senior loved one to downsize effectively while also respecting their emotions and keeping the process positive. 

“For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles and tips on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated “Best in Senior Care.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog TOPIC, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents like family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived! 

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, independent living, personal care, memory care, restorative care and respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

Bryn Mawr Terrace

Rated Best in Senior Care!

View Our Recent Recognition