Downsizing is an option many people consider when their children establish lives of their own and home maintenance becomes a chore instead of recreation.
Although downsizing offers many benefits—lower maintenance, more time, lower costs—homeowners should consider whether they should downsize at all first.
Does my home define me?
You worked and struggled to purchase and maintain a beautiful home that is the pride of the neighborhood. You spent days choosing the furnishings and decorating the interior. You have wonderful memories of your children growing up, of parties and of special life events. No wonder some of your identity is wrapped up in your large house. Some people can't imagine making a move because their house defines who they are. If you are one of those people, weigh your options carefully.
Does size matter?
Most people believe the truism, "size matters." Consider whether the positive aspects of living in a larger home outweigh the disadvantages of higher costs and maintenance. For example, the second floor of that lovely renovated Victorian may not only be abandoned by your children, but you may also find it difficult or dangerous to climb the stairs in a few years.
If a larger home provides accessible space that you require for your vocation or hobbies—a sewing room, a music room, a studio or a workshop—that you can't find anywhere else, perhaps a move isn't right for you.
What Will I Do with my Treasures?
Consider how attached you are to your possessions. If your home is full of priceless antiques and works of art, and you are adamant about keeping every single one of them, you may want to consider moving later. However, if your concern is the emotional toll of sorting through your treasures, there are businesses specifically geared to help you, such as downsizing organizers and Senior Move Managers.
How Is My Health?
One of the advantages of downsizing is reducing the time and effort required for property maintenance. However, another is finding a new home that is safer and more accessible.
As we age, we tend to have more health issues: we lose our balance easier. Our vision deteriorates. We usually take more medication. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified all of these as fall risks, in addition to uneven steps, throw rugs or clutter, and lack of hand rails.
More than a quarter of people 65 and over fall each year, according to the CDC. CDC statistics indicate that fall deaths in the 65-plus population have risen more than 130 percent from 2005 to 2014.
As for that grand older home you love, many people who live in historic homes are legally unable to add items, such as hand rails, that would make their homes safer.
Smaller, newer apartments have many safety features and are legally required to be handicap-accessible. They have fewer steps, updated electricity and other features that make them safer for people of any age.
How Are My Finances?
People are living longer and longer, which, for many, raises the uncomfortable issue of outliving your savings. The Social Security Administration offers a calculator to help you determine how much money you need to maintain your lifestyle when you stop working.
For most people, the lower cost of moving to a smaller apartment is a significant factor in their choice to downsize. You save on mortgage or rent costs, property taxes, utility costs, and maintenance costs.
Equity in the old home may be sufficient to move and add to their savings for the future or free up capital for investment.
Where and How Do You Want to Live?
There are many residence options when downsizing. Some people choose to buy a smaller home or condominium. Some prefer to live in an apartment. For people aged 50 and older, an increasingly popular choice is a continuing care retirement community, also known as a Life Plan community.
Continuing care retirement communities address the issue of moving when you need additional care. They offer a continuum of care from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing. Many also have memory care to help those with memory deficits.
Continuing care retirement communities permit the active older person to continue to work and enjoy life without the burden of home maintenance. If they wish, they can also take advantage of housekeeping and dining services. All continuing care communities include maintenance costs, meals, parking, common areas, and social activities.
Opportunities for socialization are important to many. As we age, our circle of friends and activities tends to grow smaller. Our friends may be experiencing aging issues that keep them from activities at a greater rate, which may make it difficult to visit. People of like minds tend to live at continuing care communities, so it's easy to make friends. In addition, there are common areas where people can meet and mingle.
Weather, lack of transportation, long distances, and health issues may all contribute to a lessening in the desire to participate in some activities, such as skiing or going to the theater. Most continuing care retirement communities offer activities on the grounds, transportation to activities, and exercise facilities. Yes, you can take your own car and drive, but why bother when the van lets you off at the front door?
And, unlike the case in some states, the Illinois Department of Public Health regulates continuing care or life care communities.