fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Companies specialize in helping seniors into new homes

Most of us hate moving. The hassles of organizing, packing and finally schlepping the entire haul to a new place is a pain.

For seniors, the experience can be not only a major life disruption but an emotionally painful one as they leave a home where they've raised children and created cherished memories, many of which are tied up in their belongings.

Seniors and their families can get help by hiring a senior move manager who specializes in helping older adults and their families downsize and move to a new residence.

Traditional "movers move things and senior move managers move people," said Jennifer Pickett, associate executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

"A mover that comes in, they do one thing: They estimate, they pack, they load, they unpack. A senior move manager helps them downsize, helps them go through the process of parting with their possessions without parting with their memories," she said.

The relatively new industry has grown "pretty significantly" in recent years, Pickett said.

"We have 850 members in the U.S., Canada and abroad," she said. "Two years ago, it was probably 600 and three years before that, it was probably 400."

Betty Clo Jarrell of Dallas turned to Senior Focused Relocations Inc. to help her move to a senior community from the home she shared with her now-deceased husband for 13 years.

Jarrell said she was impressed with the attention the senior move manager gave her.

"Someone comes in and talks to you about what you want to do," she said. "They're totally involved in what the client wants."

Jarrell's most treasured possessions are photos of family and friends.

"The most emotional things to me are my pictures of family," said Jarrell, sitting on a couch in her living room while the movers packed her belongings. "What I'm not taking are pictures of me. I know what I look like."

Michele Parchman, co-founder of Dallas-based Senior Focused Relocations, said that after hearing how important the photos were to Jarrell, one of her movers allocated a place for them to hang in her new apartment.

"Every client has a most treasured item or collection," Parchman said. "We absolutely take the time to listen to their history and stories. We are focused on making our clients' transition a manageable task by pacing the process to allow time for reminiscing."

As with any service, you come out better if you do your homework before selecting a senior move manager. Here are questions to ask:

How long have they been in business? "Ask what kind of training they've had," Pickett said. "A designation is not necessarily a training."

Also ask whether the senior move manager who will be working with you is an employee of the company or a contractor.

"Who will be doing the packing of your items? Who will be loading and unloading the moving truck? Who will be working in your home? Hire a company that trains their employees to understand the transition you are about to go through," Parchman said.

Ask for references.

Does the company carry insurance? "I would make sure they are fully insured and their employees have workers' compensation coverage," Pickett said.

Ask who's responsible if one company packs your items, another company moves the packed boxes and furniture, and then damage is discovered during the unpacking, Parchman said. "Hire a senior move manager that is also a licensed moving company," she said. "That way, you are protected from start to finish. Otherwise there are gaps and the only person who loses is the senior."

How much does the company charge? "Most senior move managers charge by the hour," Pickett said. "If they charge by the project, that could be a little tricky because inevitably things come up that you're not expecting."

The national average is $40 to $60 an hour, she said.

"Make sure they provide you with a written contract," Pickett said. "I would make sure that contract has a liability policy."

Are they a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers? "All of our members have been vetted," Pickett said. "There is very little barrier to entry into this type of service, and we are keenly aware of this."

Before a company can be listed on the association's website, it has to show proof of insurance and has to have two letters of recommendation from senior clients it has moved.

"You have to take our classes in senior move management ethics and accountability and safety, and you have to have a website that highlights your services," Pickett said.

Other things you can do to make the process go smoothly:

Interview more than one senior move manager: "This is very much a relationship-based service," Pickett said. "We joke about this, but when was the last time I was in my father's underwear drawer? You really have to have a sense of trust, and you have to feel good about that person. You need to follow your gut."

Lue Taff, a geriatric care manager at Dallas nonprofit The Senior Source, said she asks one key question.

"The one question I always ask anyone I'm considering for any kind of service is: What makes you unique?" said Taff. "If they have someone devoted to really establishing a bond with the family, with my mom, that would make them a standout company to me. I just want them to go the extra mile and do the extra thing for my mom."

Leave plenty of time: "Contact a senior move manager three to four weeks before move day," Parchman said. "Allow time for making all the decisions about what will move with you, what you will give to the kids, what will be sold at an estate sale, and what you want to donate to charity.

"Take the time to plan the details so you have the comfort of being involved, making the move to a retirement community or smaller home happen for you, not to you."