Mentoring future residents

Senior living providers can do much to educate and assist those downsizing and moving from their homes to communities designed for older adults, Lee-Ann Spacek says.

Lee-Ann Spacek of North Coast Residential RelocationSpacek, a senior advocate and principal and owner of North Coast Residential Relocation in Northeast Ohio, has been helping older adults transition from large homes to smaller condos, apartments or other independent living or assisted living settings since the mid-2000s. Her company holds the hands of seniors through the home-selling and moving processes, including helping them select which furniture and accessories to take with them to their new locations and aiding them in interviewing and working with real estate agents and others.

“The process seems overwhelming, the idea of making a move is difficult and the idea of aging is difficult” for her clients, she says.

Spacek gets seniors to think about the living situation that would be safest, most convenient and supportive of their current lifestyle—and whether that ideal situation necessitates a move.

“I think as human beings, we go with the path of least resistance,” she says, “and sometimes, we think that staying in that house is the path of least resistance, but it’s really not.”

Sometimes it makes sense for an older adult to stay in his or her home, but other times, the best move is one to a smaller home, condo, apartment or continuing care retirement or assisted living community.

“We have the media and the government saying, ‘Oh, age in place. Stay in your house as long as you can,’ but the government doesn’t necessarily know what your house looks like,” Spacek says. The size of her client’s current house and its associated costs—for instance, taxes, utilities, insurance, snow plowing and landscaping—also must be factored into a decision, she adds.

Spacek says that seniors have many more options available to them since she started serving this population almost 10 years ago, and more independent living communities are incorporating desirable amenities such as dining facilities, swimming pools and physical therapy and exercise areas. The aging population is increasing, she adds, and the need for such communities has grown as the mobility of society has increased. Often, an individual’s or couple’s adult children and other relatives are scattered across the country or around the world and are unable to be as hands-on with the downsizing, moving and caregiving processes as family members were in prior times.

That’s where senior living communities can really make a difference, Spacek says.

“Offer education to potential residents. Have seminars to help them understand what the process is and how they might experience it. Offer to them the services of moving, of downsizing and selecting the items to bring with them, and also [provide] education about real estate and that there is an advocate out there, like myself, who will come and walk them through the process, especially if they haven’t sold a home in 20 or 30 or 40 years.

“It’s about getting a mentor,” she continues. “It’s about having an advocate and having someone who can walk you through the process. When we get to be 80 or 90 years old, we don’t have mentors like we’ve had all through our lives. Who’s out there to help us and give us guidance in a process that we haven’t experienced before, in this special way?”

You are—or could be.

Spacek shares points that help her senior clients decide whether to move in this YouTube video and describes what seniors should do once they’ve decided to move in this YouTube video.

The Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving offers a checklist related to downsizing. Other resources are available online as well.

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Topics: Executive Leadership