When Should Seniors Downsize Housing?

Is the maintenance and upkeep of your home becoming a daily grind or even unsafe? Many older adults consider downsizing their housing. Here are 10 straightforward questions to help inform your decision-making.
Smiling African American couple moving out of their house

Have you had it with stairs, cleaning, or yard work? Are you ‘up-to-here’ with snow, rain, or brutal cold?

Making a move to downsize is often a matter of rational thought combined with gut-driven emotions. If you and your spouse/partner are having these questions…it helps to know the top 10 questions to ask.

From talking with many people, be prepared for ongoing discussions. Home is a big deal. For many couples, this is usually more than a one-time conversation.

Let’s jump in.

1. What’s Important To You Now?

You may have moved to your current home years ago. Perhaps at that time you were looking at school districts, proximity to work, parks, and commuting ease. As your life needs have evolved, some of the things that were important might have changed.

What matters most to you now?

2. Who Do You Love Being With?

Are you devoted to your grandchildren and want to be within walking distance? Do you prefer to visit with children and grandkids at holidays?

For many couples, being near friends is a top priority. Lifelong friends and companions can be the source of community and support. There’s no correct answer—only your answer.

3. Are You In a Happy Climate?

Basically this means, are you in a climate you’re happy about? If that last snowstorm blew away your winter spirit…listen. If you can’t stand another grey day, you have options.

For many seniors, living in a sunnier and warmer climate is the most important thing. It can also be where your friends and associates are moving…giving you a built-in community.

Group of multiethnic seniors on the beach

4. How Social Are You?

If you’re looking for more social connections, look for communities, which offer organized activities and group facilities. These may be housing villages or neighborhood groups that offer a higher ease for meeting new friends.

5. How Private Are You?

Maybe you prefer your privacy in a single-family dwelling. Perhaps you like the possibility of connecting with people in more of a multi-family setting. Knowing what’s important for you at this point in your life can help you identify options that may be quite different from your current home.

6. How Much Work Do You Want?

If your current dwelling includes grounds keeping, yard work, lawn mowing, animal care, and a lot of physical labor…well, you may be looking for a lifestyle that is more care-free.

One couple I know had a 12-acre vineyard that kept them busy from morning to night. After 12 years of building fences, planting grapes, mowing acres, and caring for a donkey, they sold. Do you think they did a repeat? Not a chance. They downsized to a simple condo.

Running a vineyard, managing a working farm, or living on a large country estate may have been a perfect dream. Perhaps you’ve got different dreams of working less, never mowing again, and kicking your feet up. Only you know.

7. How Much Space Do You Want?

Is your current home a lot bigger than you need now? For many couples, the kids are grown and the grandkids only come for occasional visits. Instead of feeling that the house is full of people and life, it sounds kind of hollow.

If you’re ready for a smaller, cozier home, you can achieve this by downsizing.

Senior couple drink coffee in their mobile home

8. How Much Do You Use?

Is the garage stuffed with old equipment and old mementos? Is there a stash under the stairs? Do you have, like one friend of mind, a separate room for “unsorted treasures?”

If you have a lot of things, it may be a good time to sort things out. Decluttering is said to be good for the body, mind, and spirit. Plus, you’ll be able to sort out what you want to keep—and what you are ready to release.

In the spirit of lightening up, you may find that you want to keep a lot less than you’ve got.

9. How Much Are You Driving?

If you’re not driving as much, your decision to downsize can have added benefits. By living in a zone with a high-walkability score, you might be able to sell your car. Instead of saving for lease payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance—you can treat yourself. Perhaps you’ll spend the money on a vacation, a yoga class, or an art class. Additionally, if you’re walking more places, you are supporting your lifestyle goals for self-care, health, and sociability.

10. Would You Like to Experiment?

Maybe you aren’t entirely sure of where to go next. The big question: “Where is next?”

If you’re curious, why not try out different cities, towns, and states? A quick trip is easy with Airbnb. Book a spot and get your feet on the ground. You’ll discover the quirks and secret finds of different locales. Plus, when you return, you’ll look at your current home through fresh eyes.

Assistance Club Summary

The Big Idea: downsizing could be a perfect solution—but only you know the true answer. If you’re finding that your house is too big, too much work, or too expensive…consider your alternatives.

Making a move to a smaller home could help you live your dreams. A better climate. An easier lifestyle. A chance for health, community, and play. Take the time to talk things through with your loved one, and determine the best choice for you.