Moving Seniors

in the Right Direction...



In her long career as a psychiatrist, Dr. Phyllis Harrison-Ross has been described by friends and colleagues as practical and calm. But two other traits, humor and patience, went right out the window when she decided to downsize.

“You ask yourself what you want to keep, and the answer is ‘everything,’ ” said Dr. Harrison-Ross, who turns 80 next month. “It’s an emotional roller coaster that takes a toll on you. It’s very tiring.

“I thought I could get down to the bare essence of things myself,” she said. “But that proved to be very difficult, much more than I had expected.”

Her solution: Dr. Harrison-Ross hired a senior move manager.

Moving is stressful at any age, but for those who have lived in one place for many years, getting rid of things that have accumulated over decades is a large barrier to overcome.

As people get older, said David J. Ekerdt, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Kansas, cognitive and physical issues hamper divestment. “It’s also a very emotional task. It’s hard to quantify the attachment one has to certain possessions,” he said, adding that the probability of people divesting themselves of their belongings decreases each decade after age 50.

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August, 2013

Downsizing isn’t easy, says Patricia Cusson. For some elderly people, moving from a large family home to a small apartment or an assisted living facility can be downright heartbreaking.    “It’s hard to leave your home,” Cusson says. “It’s hard to leave your memories. It’s hard tomove into a new place and make new friends.”

Janice Armour, who founded It’s Your Move in Natick, Mass., with Lynn Falwell, says, “You’re leaving a house that served you well, a house that was a reflection of your life.”    Moving is never easy for an elderly person,agrees Valerie Achorn, but it can be made easier with the help of experts.

Cusson, Armour and Achorn are members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, a trade group that trains and certifies experts on moving elderly clients, usually to smaller accommodations.    Achorn, whose Simplified Lives business is based in Barrington, used to be an events manager, and she says, “Moving is a major event.”    Cusson has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years. “Nurses take care of things,” she says. She founded her business, Senior Transition, based in Coventry, to take care of things for seniors making a move. “I take care of people making the transition from an old life to a new life,” she says.

All three move managers agree that listening is the most important thing they can do for clients who often are frightened and saddened about leaving their homes and abandoning possessions that marked milestones in their lives — wedding gowns, baptism blankets, photographs and paintings.    Cusson and Achorn encourage clients to pass on cherished belongings to family members.    But, move managers also have a network of specialists who help their clients sell valuable possessions and donate less marketable goods to charities. They work with auctioneers to sell antiques and collectibles, and gun dealers, book sellers and eBay specialists who sell a variety of things. The generationof women who are downsizing now has a lot of fur coats and jackets to leave behind, and Cusson and Achorn have buyers to take them at fair prices. As for other possessions, such as artwork, Cusson says, “In Rhode Island, artists are like dandelions.    “They’re everywhere, and [as a result] there are a lot of paintings. Sometimes, selling them is like finding homes for kittens. It’s tough.”    Because of the abundance of artists and crafters here, move managers’ clients often can sell wedding gowns and other items that will be incorporated into art and crafts. “It’s important for our clients to know that their possessions aren’t being thrown away,” says Achorn.

Senior move managers also work with real estate agents who specialize in selling property for elderly clients. Cusson says a move manager recommends two agents for a client to interview.    The agents also work with tradespeople to prepare properties for sale.    Senior move managers also work with clients on the destination end of a move, says Craig Evans, executive director of Laurelmead, a cooperative retirement community on Providence’s East Side. “They become surrogate daughters and sons for their clients,” he says, “and we love it when someone has an advocate.”    Move managers help clients select furniture and other possessions that will help them feel at home in new surroundings. Armour says,“They’re things that are the most important to you … things that reflect who you were, and what you want to be in the next chapter of your life.”    Senior move managers generally offer a free initial consultation, and then charge by the hour. Achorn says she charges $60 an hour. Though they are based in Southern New England, Cusson, Achorn and Armour say they will go wherever their clients need them.    More information about the National Association of Senior Move Managers and a directory of its members are available at NASMM. (401) 277-7244 On Twitter @TomMeade2

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