The following was in the Retirement Living guide in the April 25, 2010 Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Getting back to basics
Downsizing to smaller quarters can be a sentimental journey
by Mary Christensen
Many retirees decide to downsize their living quarters – moving to a smaller apartment, a condo, or an assisted living facility. Less space usually means a reducing material possessions. Seniors should be prepared for a process that can be “emotional, physical and stressful, ” says Christine Smart, owner of Designing Moves in Marion and a trained member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
“It’s like when somebody dies,” explains Nani Reed, 90, who left most of her possessions to other family members when she moved from her Cedar Rapids home to the first of three care facilities. “You mourn,” she says, “but you realize ‘I can’t change it; I can’t make it different’. Just throw away anything you aren’t going to use,” she advises, “and don’t wait until the last minute.”
There’s also less stress if seniors can actively make a choice, says Smart. “People need to feel like they’re in control of things.”
That was an issue for Leone Novy, 92, who left her Solon area home for a care facility two years ago, later moving to Honey Creek Cottage in Swisher where she lives with Reed and six other residents in a home-like setting.
“I didn’t have time to decide” what to keep, Novy says, adding that she didn’t feel ready to leave her home when her family made the decision to move her to a care facility. What felt like a surprise move to her was very stressful.
Rita Banke, 78, of Cedar Rapids made her own choices, leading to a happy change. After drug dealers moved into her neighborhood and her husband died, she realized she was physically, mentally and financially drained, and that it wasn’t good for her to stay in the house where she’d lived for 50 years. When she announced her conclusion to her children, “My sons told me they had been hoping I would make that decision.”
“I’m so appreciative of what I’ve got now,” Banke says of her apartment at Garnett Place in Cedar Rapids, noting that the atrium outside her door, the handy garden for walking her small dog, good food and friendly staff all make it easier to let go of things that wouldn’t fit there.
Jared Ekholm, 84, who downsized several times before moving to Honey Creek Cottage to be near his son in Shueyville, says it was difficult because he couldn’t make up his mind about what things to get rid of. He brought some favorite furnishings with him, but still keeps many pieces in a storage unit, which he can visit if he wishes.
For most seniors, the question of what to keep is answered with sentimental memories. Ekholm, whose wife has Alzheimer’s and lives in a different care facility, treasures an old bell his wife used when she taught in a small country school and journals he kept of their travels around the country and abroad.
For Reed, there’s a Christmas cactus, she’s had for nearly 50 years; but she still wishes she could find the first Valentine she received from her grandchild.