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Senior Move Managers Help Make a Monumental Task Less Overwhelming for Many Older Americans

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If you’re like most seniors, the thought of moving out of your present home fills you with dread – particularly if you’ve lived there for a decade or three. You might have a strong wish to downsize or to move to a condo or a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), but the prospect of attacking rooms full of furniture and an attic or basement stuffed with memorabilia quickly becomes paralyzing.

Enter the senior move manager. These certified experts will spend days, weeks, even months meeting with seniors and their families to help them sort through years of accumulated belongings. Many of these services will then pack your furniture and personal items and situate them in your new home. All you have to do is walk in.

Sounds like a worthwhile idea, doesn’t it? We’ve read about these senior move managers before, but this recent New York Times article by reporter Paula Span provides a helpful update on the topic. Perhaps this article might provide just the kick-start you needed to get those moving plans back on track. (Note that a subscription may be required to access the article on the New York Times website.)

A “Reluctant” but Necessary Move

Span begins her article with the story of Washington State residents Ray and Beth Nygren – 87 and 85 years old respectively – who planned to move from a 2,400 square foot, 4-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment in a nearby independent- and assisted-living complex. They had lived in their home for 20 years, and their new place would be about half the size.

According to their daughter, Bonnie Rae Nygren, Ray and Beth were moving “maybe a little reluctantly,” but, as Span explains, the move was necessary “because each had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last year, and Beth Nygren had suffered complications. The single step from living room to dining room, or down to the family room, had become difficult for her to manage using a walker. She’d already taken a fall.”

Bonnie Rae says more about her mom’s fall. “They considered it a very minor thing, but it was really eye-opening for us. One more fall could make a huge difference in their lives.” So, the couple’s three children stepped in and suggested that with Beth and Ray both dealing with serious health complications, downsizing into a retirement community would be the safest and wisest next step.

Family Overwhelmed by Sheer Amount of Stuff

Quickly, the reality of sorting through 65 years of possessions became overwhelming. Bonnie Rae says, “Digging in, we realized how much stuff they had. How many towels do you need? What dishes do you want to take? What pictures do you want on the walls? And, what about the things you can’t take?”

Thankfully, the retirement facility recommended a service that the family had never heard of, before: senior move managers. Among their recommendations was RR Move Co.

“The elder Nygrens almost balked when owner Rebecca Ricards walked through their house, talked with them about their concerns, took lots of photos — and quoted a price of $5,400 for planning the move, packing their belongings and setting up the new residence, including the moving van and movers,” Span writes. “But,” she adds, “reassured by her experience and confidence, they hired her, with their son contributing a chunk of the costs.”

Trade Association with 1,100 Affiliated Firms

Senior move managers are nothing new, and are more common than you might think.

Span explains, “About 1,100 such companies belong to the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers, which offers training and certification, and requires members to carry liability insurance and adhere to a code of ethics. Depending on the needs of clients, move managers’ services include sorting and organizing belongings, working with a moving company and using a floor plan to determine what can fit where in the new residence.”

Not only do they take care of what’s moving to the new location, but they also sell, donate, or dispose of what’s being left behind. They also prepare the new home, “from spices in the cabinets to towels on the racks,” as Span puts it.

Some Services Offered à la Carte

“Though Ms. Ricards charges by the job, most move managers charge $65 to $125 an hour, with big regional variations,” Span writes. While that fee is not accessible to everyone, many clients move into private-pay senior living facilities after selling a house, so they can handle the expense.

Other lower-cost options may exist, however. Span explains, “Clients with smaller budgets may be able to purchase some services, not the whole package. Family members may also help shoulder the costs.”

The benefits run deeper than a simple moving service. Mary Kay Buysse, the association’s co-executive director, says, “It’s not just packing and unpacking. It’s working with the clients and the family for weeks or months, going through a lifetime of possessions. You need to be a good listener.”

3 Million Seniors on the Move

Span writes, “Older people relocate far less frequently than younger ones. A Census Bureau report in 2022 found that from 2015 to 2019, about 6.2 percent of the population over age 65 had moved in a given year, compared with about 15 percent of the younger population. Still, senior migration topped three million adults a year. The rate increased among those over age 85 and those with a disability.”

The most common reason for moving probably won’t surprise you: living closer to family members, especially among those 75 and older. “Respondents also cited better neighborhoods and reduced housing costs,” Span adds.

Because of this, senior move managers don’t just work with adult children to help move their parents, but are also increasingly being hired by younger seniors who want help with the process for themselves, according to Buysse.

Other Professionals Helping Seniors Relocate

There is a whole ecosystem of professionals who can help seniors move. Span writes, “Besides senior move managers, older movers may encounter real estate agents, attorneys, senior living staff and others who are ‘certified relocation and transition specialists.’”

This is because relocating older adults usually involves unique challenges. These movers are generally shifting into smaller spaces, not larger ones, and have had much more time to accumulate stuff. “And their families, for better or worse, are often involved,” Span adds.

Diane Bjorkman of well-established Twin Cities’ based group Gentle Transitions, explains that a move manager has to act in a similar capacity to a social worker, in some ways. “We’re sometimes dealing with people with cognitive issues. Family dynamics come into play. It’s not you telling your mom, ‘Don’t take the torn recliner.’ It’s someone else saying, ‘Maybe another chair would work better.’”

Move Managers Help, but the Client Decides

Span has a personal connection to this story; she and her sister hired a senior move manager for their father, who was moving into an independent living apartment, “when it became clear that discussing matters like precisely how many identical plastic flashlights he needed could consume months. We deferred to a third party.”

But while the move manager can give help and support, ultimately it’s up to the client what stays and what goes. Bjorkman recalls, “One woman who hadn’t cooked for 20 years insisted that she needed to hold on to a particular roasting pan. The woman also argued that, as someone who remembered the Depression, a free-standing freezer was a crucial source of comfort — even if it was full of expired food.”

So, how did Gentle Transitions handle this? “The roasting pan could be disassembled to fit under the bed in the new apartment,” Bjorkman says. “The freezer — still packed with food — served as a living room side table.”

Ready for “the Big Reveal”

What about the Nygrens up in Washington? “Their children handled the weeks of sorting and paring, and Ray Nygren — a retired engineer — drew detailed schematics of the new apartment, showing where items should go,” Span writes.

And RR Move Co. did the rest, packing it all up one day in March and moving them into their new apartment the next day. At around 6pm on the moving day, Ricards and her crew called the Nygrens and let them know that they were ready for “the big reveal.”

“We walked in, and it was like walking into your home,” Beth Nygren said, and Span notes here that she was getting weepy on the phone in their interview. Span adds, “There were no boxes in sight. The move managers had made the beds, set the clocks, made sure Ray’s computer was operational.”

“Everything was in place: clothes in the closet, pictures on the wall, stuff in the drawers,” Bonnie Rae says. “You could just start living.”

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(originally reported at

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