What to consider about downsizing and another big factor at home – Daily News

Q. My husband and I are in our late sixties, healthy and active. We live in a house that is more than we need and recently talked about downsizing and buying a smaller place. We have different views on whether we should seek a one-level or two-level residence. From a safety point of view, I think we should avoid the stairs. My husband doesn’t see this as a problem. What are your thoughts and what else should we consider? LJ

The topic of downsizing usually arises when the kids are no longer at home and the challenges of aging become more evident. When making a decision, it may be helpful to consider the pros and cons of moving to smaller premises.

Let’s start with the benefits. For some, it’s financial. In Southern California, if you’ve lived in your home for a long time, you’ll likely sell it for a lot more than what you paid for. Assuming you have that extra cash, you can use it for travel, entertainment, savings, and more. Plus, you’ll likely spend less on maintenance and utility costs in a smaller location. Note that the extra money is not a guarantee.

Moving to a smaller location also means less work in cleaning rooms you don’t use and endless yard work, leaving you with more discretionary time. There is also the possibility and the drudgery of getting rid of things due to less space to display or store items.

And Americans usually have a lot of stuff: Average American homes contain 300,000 items. Even if the size of houses has doubled since the 1950s, one in 10 families has rented storage space. And speaking of extra space, in an average 2,700 square foot home, 80 percent of the space is rarely or never used.

Now on the downside. Coming out of a house where you have lived for a long time is full of memories. They are memories of momentous events, including the activities of your children as they grew up. They are keepsakes from birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, holiday season and more. A move can also involve leaving your community, friends and family who live nearby. A move is about letting go while cherishing all that was good – while making room for new memories.

Then there is the problem of space. You may have less space for the beautiful large sideboard your parents brought from Europe, your work-related reports and files, and the book shelves. You may need to part with the favorite books you read to your kids and their elementary school art. (I still have a preschool dinosaur made by my now 19-year-old grandson.) In addition to less storage space, there is often less living space. For some, having a more intimate lifestyle could create a problem.

Moving is an opportunity to declutter that takes a lot of work. The challenge is making decisions about what to keep, throw away, give to family and friends, or just donate. It comes through the closet full of clothes, extra china, silverware, serving pieces, old wedding gifts and cooking utensils, sports equipment, and memorabilia you have collected on your travels. There are services that can help you with this task.

Now let’s talk about moving to a one or two level residence. Here is what we know. One in four adults aged 65 and over falls each year with most falls happen at home; 20 to 30 percent result in a serious injury. Stairs can be risky for those 85 and over. A Reuters report reported that this group had a high rate of injuries related to the use of stairs. Also, with the passing of the years, Navigating the stairs can become difficult due to chronic pain, inflexibility, or vision problems.

Consideration could be given to eliminating stairs as an insurance policy. No one knows if he or she will be the one in four who fall each year and if that fall will be related to the use of the stairs. Plus, we won’t know how normal aging or chronic disease will affect our mobility.

Another consideration is to determine if you want to live your years of progression in this new place. If this is the case, it is important to have a living environment that will adapt to normal age-related changes and possible illnesses or accidents. The goal is to live well and safely while maintaining as much independence as possible.

The good news is, you have the conversation.

LJ, I hope these points will help you assess your situation and make the right decision. Thank you for your good question and be well.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and not-for-profit background. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen on HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity

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