How to Help Your Aging Parents Move

It’s hard to imagine visiting your parents anywhere but your childhood home – but both you and your parents need to be honest when that big, old house no longer suits their needs. People often need to relocate in their twilight years, and their reasons vary: Maybe your parents want to be closer to you and your growing family; maybe they can no longer maintain such a large property and need a more manageable living space; maybe they need senior support, like on-site health care services and meal delivery. As much as you might miss the room you grew up in, you need to help your parents move.

For many children of aging parents, convincing them to relocate is half the battle. If your parents are already on-board to move, you don’t need to do much to assist. Here are some seemingly small but impactful tasks that will make your parents’ move much easier.


Help Sort and Pack

If your parents have been in their home for many years, they have accumulated a lifetime’s worth of memories in the form of physical belongings. Likely every shelf and cabinet is packed full of stuff, and since the goal is to move them into a smaller, more manageable space, they won’t be able to take all their possessions with them. Worse, they likely won’t have the energy or strength to sift through everything themselves.

You should put aside some time every week to help your parents get boxes down, move belongings around and tote things to and from the car. Undoubtedly, there will be things that you will want to keep, either for your own memories or as heirlooms for your family. You can help your parents sort through their stuff, picking out the things they will need and determining what they can do with the rest – donate it, give it to friends and family or throw it away.

Listen and Remember

Moving into a retirement space can be traumatic, so it is important that you remain sensitive to your parents’ needs during this time. As they sift through their stuff, they will recall where they got certain items and why they kept them. Often, this will lead to stories of their lives – stories that you should listen to and strive to remember. Not only does that give more meaning to their lives, but it allows you to collect stories of your own to pass along with certain heirlooms.

Plan the Moving Day

You and your parents both need a hard end date for the sorting and packing process, and that date should be moving day. Without this deadline, your parents could putz around their old place for the rest of their lives. However, with the movers scheduled and the new place open at a certain date and time, everyone will be more motivated to get the necessary work done.

You should also take steps to ensure that moving day is organized well. You should know when movers will arrive, what items they will take and where they are going. You might invite family members, family friends or your parents’ friends to come help the process, which will also make the move less stressful for your parents, who will feel their community around them still. You should have a list of jobs that these extra people can do on moving day, such as taking your parents to their new place, bringing lunch or loading smaller, more delicate packages in cars.

Set up Necessary Services

The transition from one home to the other should be smooth as silk, which means you probably need to do some footwork at the new place before moving day. If your parents aren’t going to some type of facility, like an active senior’s community or a retirement home, you will likely need to communicate with utilities companies to ensure that electricity, gas and water are active by the move-in date. Regardless of where you go, you should hook up cable – seniors love their shows – and have professionals perform internet and home network setup. Then, your parents can settle into a normal routine faster and feel more comfortable sooner.

Make the New Place Feel Like Home

aging-parents-homeOften, retirement spaces boast more amenities to seniors than their old family homes do. Older adults have more access to classes, activities and events, which typically occur on campus and within walking or carting distance. Still, this new space won’t feel like home until you take steps to make it so. You should help your parents hang their favorite pictures, especially those of family and friends. You should maintain your old habits, like Sunday night dinners or monthly movie nights. Their new place will feel lonely until they sink into the swing of things, so you should be available to help ease the transition.

Erin Emanuel