The four-bedroom home Ray and Beth Nygren lived in for 20 years in Auburn, Wash., was about 2,400 square feet. The two-bedroom apartment waiting for them in a nearby independent and assisted housing complex was less than half that size.
They were moving — “perhaps a little reluctantly,” said their daughter, Bonnie Rae Nygren — because each had undergone heart valve replacement surgery last year and Beth Nygren had suffered complications. The single walk from the living room to the dining room, or to the family room, had become difficult for her using a walker.
She had already fallen. “They considered it a very minor thing, but it was really an eye opener for us,” Bonnie Rae said. “One more fall could make a huge difference in their lives.”
The couple’s three children suggested that with Beth, 85, struggling with multiple sclerosis and Ray, 87, struggling with heart failure, “it might be time to downsize and move into a retirement community,” said Bonnie Rae.
Earlier this year, the family began sorting through 65 years of possessions. “Digging down we realized how much stuff they had,” Ms Nygren recalls. “How many towels do you need?” What dishes would you like to take away? What pictures do you want on the walls? And what about the things you can’t stand? The process seemed overwhelming.
The family had never heard of senior move managers until the retirement home recommended a few, including RR Move Co.
The eldest Nygrens almost balked when landlord Rebecca Ricards walked through their home, spoke with them about their concerns, took lots of photos – and offered a price of $5,400 to plan the move, pack their things and install the new residence, including the moving van and movers.
But reassured by her experience and confidence, they hired her, with their son contributing some of the costs.
About 1,100 of these companies belong to the National Association of Senior and Specialty Moving Managerswhich provides training and certification, and requires members to carry liability insurance and adhere to a code of ethics.
Depending on client needs, moving manager services include sorting and organizing belongings, working with a moving company, and using a floor plan to determine what can fit into the new residence.
They prepare the new home, from the spices in the cupboards to the towels on the shelves; they can sell, give or dispose of what remains. Although Ms. Ricards charges by the job, most move managers charge between $65 and $125 an hour, with wide regional variations, said Mary Kay Buysse, the association’s co-executive director.
It’s not within everyone’s reach, but most clients move into fee-paying seniors’ residences, often after selling a home, and can afford the extra expense. Customers with smaller budgets may be able to purchase certain services, not the entire package. Family members can also help with the costs.
“It’s not just about packing and unpacking,” Ms Buysse said. “It’s about working with clients and family for weeks or months, going through a lifetime of possessions. You must be a good listener.
Older people move much less often than younger people. A Census Bureau report in 2022 found that from 2015 to 2019, about 6.2% of the population over 65 had moved in a given year, compared to about 15% of the younger population. However, the migration of the elderly exceeds three million adults per year. The rate increased among people over 85 and people with disabilities.
The most common reasons for moving? Living closer to family members tops the list, especially among those 75 and older, according to a survey published last year in the Journal of the American Planning Association. Respondents also cited better neighborhoods and lower housing costs.
Although senior moving managers often work with adult children to help move their parents, the industry is seeing an increase in young seniors hiring managers for themselves, Ms. Buysse added.
Originally from New York, Alissa Ballot had already moved from a house in Florida to an apartment in Chicago when, in 2021, she decided “it was time to move”. But selling her place in Chicago while finding an apartment in New York during the pandemic has become “nervous breakdown time,” said Ms. Ballot, 67, a retired attorney. “There were all these bullets in the air – a few bullets too many.”
Dawson Moving Services in Chicago charged him less than $1,000 (at $65 an hour) to coordinate the move. “I was able to set a date to get on a plane with a few suitcases and leave everything else to them,” Ms Ballot said. “It was a miracle.”
She unpacked on her own, but she didn’t have to come back to clean and close her Chicago apartment. Marnie Dawson even helped her file claims when the movers ransacked some of Ms. Ballot’s belongings.
(In addition to senior moving managers, older movers may encounter real estate agents, attorneys, senior living staff, and others who are “certified relocation and transition specialists.” About 1,000 people have passed the credentialing exam, said Donna Surges Tatum, president of the Certification Council for Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists. The National Association of Realtors also refers to “senior real estate specialists. »
The relocation of the elderly involves particular challenges. Unlike younger movers, they typically move to smaller spaces, not larger ones, after decades of more time to hoard stuff. And their families, for better or for worse, are often implicated.
A move manager must be part social worker. “We sometimes deal with people with cognitive problems. Family dynamics come into play,” said Diane Bjorkman, whose company serves the Twin Cities, Smooth transitionsis the oldest and probably the largest senior moving management company in the country.
A non-judgmental professional can often ease tensions. “You’re not the one telling your mom, ‘Don’t take the ripped recliner,'” Ms Bjorkman said. “It’s someone else saying, ‘Maybe another chair would work better.'”
My sister and me has hired a senior move manager for our father, who was moving into a self-contained apartment, when it became clear that discussing issues such as the exact number of identical plastic flashlights he needed could take months. We handed over to a third party.
Yet, in the end, the customer decides. A woman who hadn’t cooked in 20 years insisted she had to hang on to a particular roasting pan, Ms Bjorkman recalled. The woman also argued that, as someone who remembered the Depression, a self-contained freezer was a crucial source of comfort – even if it was full of stale food.
The rotisserie could be taken apart to fit under the bed in the new apartment, Ms Bjorkman said. The freezer – always stocked with food – served as a side table in the living room.
The Nygrens made no such unusual request. Their children handled the weeks of sorting and peeling, and Ray Nygren – a retired engineer – drew detailed diagrams of the new apartment, showing where the items needed to go.
RR Move Co. did the rest, packing up one March day and moving them into their new apartment the next. At around 6pm, Ms Ricards and her team phoned the family to say they were ready for what she calls “the big reveal”.
“We walked in, and it was like walking into your house,” Beth Nygren said, crying into the phone. There were no boxes in sight. The movers had made the beds, set the clocks, checked that Ray’s computer was working.
“Everything was in place: clothes in the closet, pictures on the wall, stuff in the drawers,” Ms Nygren said. “You could just start living.”