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 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 our downsizing tips for seniors is just what you’re looking for!

Let’s jump into this Senior Assistance Club senior housing downsizing guide.

Why Should Seniors Downsize their Housing?

As we age, it's only natural for our houses to start feeling a bit too big. We no longer need all those extra bedrooms, and we might find ourselves struggling to keep up with the yard work. For many seniors, the best solution is to downsize to a smaller house. By moving to a smaller home, seniors can reduce their overall living costs while still maintaining their independence. And with less space to take care of, seniors will have more time to enjoy their retirement. Whether it’s traveling, spending time with family, or taking up a new hobby, downsizing can help seniors make the most of their retirement years.

When you downsize, you can sell your current home and use the proceeds to buy a smaller one. You'll instantly have less house space to maintain, which will save you time and money. And if you downsize to a home that's closer to town, you may find yourself walking more and driving less, which is good for your health.

Downsizing can also be a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. A smaller home means fewer resources are required to heat and cool it, and you'll have less stuff to eventually throw away. So, if you're thinking about downsizing, there are plenty of good reasons to do it. Just be sure to do your research and choose the right home for your needs.

If you’re still unsure if downsizing is right for you, let’s look at some decisions to consider when downsizing.

Questions to Ask Before Downsizing

1. When Should Seniors Downsize Their Homes?

The timing of a downsizing decision should ultimately depend on the individual's unique needs and preferences. Some seniors may feel ready to downsize when they retire or experience a major life change, while others may prefer to wait until they require assistance with daily tasks or have difficulty maintaining their current living space.

It's important to consider one's physical needs as well as emotional attachment to the current living space before making such a big decision.

2. 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?

3. 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 during the 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.

4. Are You in a Happy Climate?

Take a look at the weather you consistently endure where you’re currently living. If that last snowstorm blew away your winter spirit…listen. If you can’t stand another gray 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.

5. 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 higher ease for meeting new friends.

Group of multiethnic seniors on the beach

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 mine, 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.

10. 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.

11. Would You Like to Experiment?

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

Why not try out different cities, towns, and states if you're curious? 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.

Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Here are some of our best downsizing tips for seniors to make the process as smooth as possible!

Senior couple drink coffee in their mobile home

1. Start with a plan

Before you start downsizing, it's important to have a plan in place. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? By having a clear plan, you'll be able to better focus your efforts and make the downsizing process less overwhelming.

2. Choose your new home wisely

Second on our list of downsizing tips for seniors is to carefully consider where you want to move to.

When selecting a smaller home, it's important to choose one that will fit your needs both now and in the future. Consider things like accessibility, location, and amenities when making your decision. You may also want to consider moving into a retirement community where you'll have access to social activities and assistance when needed.

If you’re worried about costs, don’t fret. There are a ton of affordable housing options for seniors you can also check out.

3. If possible, visit your new home before moving day

This will allow you to measure furniture and get an idea of how your belongings will fit into your new space. It will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings so that everything isn't so unfamiliar on moving day.

4. Declutter

One of the most important downsizing tips for seniors it to declutter your home. After years of accumulation, it can be tough to let go of things. But remember, you don't need to keep everything. Just because you have the space doesn't mean you need to fill it up. So, take some time to go through your belongings and get rid of anything you don't need or use anymore. This will not only make downsizing easier, but it will also make packing and moving less of a hassle.

5. Get organized

Once you've decluttered your home, it's time to get organized. Create a floor plan for your new home and figure out where everything will go. This will help you visualize the space and determine what furniture and belongings you need to keep and what can be sold or donated.

6. Sort through your belongings

After you’ve decided on what's staying and what's going, you can start sorting through your belongings. Make sure to handle each item with care and think hard about if it's something you want to keep, sell, or donate. If you're having trouble deciding, ask yourself if the item has sentimental value or if it's something you use on a regular basis. Remember, just because something has been in your family for years doesn't mean you have to keep it.

7. Donate or sell unwanted items

Now that you've sorted through your belongings, it's time to get rid of anything you don't want or need anymore. You can either donate these items to charity or sell them at a garage sale or on online marketplaces like Craigslist or eBay. Getting rid of unwanted items can be tough but remember that someone else may be able to put them to good use. And who knows, maybe someone in your family will want them!

Assistance Club Summary

The Big Idea: downsizing your housing could be the perfect solution for seniors—but only you know if it’s right for you. 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 ones and determine the best choice for you.

For more housing and care tips for seniors, be sure to check out the other articles we have for you on Senior Assistance Club!