How can I persuade my elderly parents to downsize?

Convincing your aging parents that downsizing is the right move is more than a matter of vocabulary. 

Most of our parents are set in their ways, making it difficult to sway them in another direction. This can especially be true when trying to persuade them to downsize their living quarters. Living in the same home for a long period of time gives us a sense of security and comfort. Thinking about moving can be overwhelming and an emotional challenge. We become attached to our homes: the memories, the milestones and the monetary investment make it as much a part of our lives as the people who lived within its walls. 

If you’re trying to convince your parents to downsize, it can be helpful to change the vocabulary. “Rightsizing” carries a more positive tone, implying a move forward, a new way of life, and a space better suited to parents in their later years. As this will likely be their last move, it’s smart to plan for the long term, ensuring that a new home ticks all their important boxes. 

Thinking long-term means you’ll need to consider all of their physical and emotional needs and make sure they’re all met in their new home. For instance, the location should provide relatively easy access to things such as medical care, shopping, public transportation, restaurants and park lands. You’ll also need to consider items which the home itself may require such as walk-in showers, level access, and ramps. In addition, if your parents still work you’ll need to locate them somewhere close to their place of employment.

The best way to make sure all of your parents’ needs are met is to sit down with them and compile a list of things they’d like in a home. Be prepared with a list of pro-downsizing arguments to address the objections they are likely to make. Keep the conversation flowing with open-ended questions (those that cannot be answered with a yes or no), and don’t try to replicate the home they currently live in.

Ideally, your parents will be able to keep most of their current furnishings and accessories and take them to their new home. They may have to sacrifice a few things if there just isn’t enough room for everything. A good way to keep the peace is by offering to take some items yourself or by giving them to siblings to make sure they are still kept in the family.

If your parents do agree to rightsizing, offer your time to help with packing up the old home and unpacking when they reach their new home. Hiring professional movers will also go a long way in making your parents feel better about the new changes.

After the move, it’s important to provide emotional support. You may want to gather your family together and celebrate the move to new surroundings with a housewarming party and make sure your parents are well settled in and comfortable. 

Helping your parents move forward into the next stage of their life can be made easier with an open discussion about the benefits of rightsizing. Discuss the move and address their concerns calmly and be kind. Give your parents time to think things through and ask questions. Having the right words can mean the difference between an outright refusal and a successful new adventure. 

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