The four-bedroom house that Ray and Beth Nygren had lived in for 20 years in Auburn, Washington, measured about 2,400 square feet. The two-bedroom apartment that awaited them at a nearby independent and assisted living complex was less than half that size.
They were moving in, “maybe a little reluctantly,” said their daughter, Bonnie Rae Nygren, because each had heart valve replacement surgery last year and Beth Nygren had suffered complications. The one step from the living room to the dining room, or to the living room, had become difficult for her with a walker.
She had already had a fall. “They considered it a very small thing, but it was really eye-opening for us,” Bonnie Rae said. “One more fall could make a big difference in their lives.”
The couple’s three children suggested that with Beth, 85, dealing with multiple sclerosis and Ray, 87, dealing with heart failure, “maybe it was time to downsize and move to a retirement community,” Bonnie said. Rae.
Earlier this year, the family began going through 65 years of possessions. “When we investigated, we realized how much stuff they had,” Ms. Nygren recalled. “How many towels do you need? What dishes do you want to bring? What pictures do you want on the walls? And what about the things you can’t take? The process felt overwhelming.
The family had never heard of move managers until the retirement center recommended some, including RR Move Co.
The older Nygrens almost balked when owner Rebecca Ricards stopped by their home, talked to them about their concerns, took lots of photos, and quoted a price of $5,400 to plan the move, pack up their belongings, and set up the new residence, not including the removal and removal van.
But reassured by her experience and confidence, they hired her, with her son contributing a portion of the costs.
Some 1,100 of these companies belong to the National Association of Senior and Special Mover Managerswhich offers training and certification, and requires members to carry liability insurance and adhere to a code of ethics.
Depending on clients’ needs, movers’ services include sorting and organizing belongings, working with a moving company, and using a floor plan to determine what can fit in the new residence.
They prepare the new home, from the spices in the cabinets to the towels on the coat racks; they can sell, donate or get rid of what is left. Although Ms. Ricards charges by the job, most movers charge between $65 and $125 an hour, with wide regional variations, said Mary Kay Buysee, the association’s co-executive director.
That’s not within everyone’s reach, but most clients are moving to private pay senior facilities, often after selling a home, and can afford the added expense. Clients with smaller budgets may purchase some services, not the entire package. Family members can also help bear the costs.
“It’s not just about packing and unpacking,” Ms. Buysee said. “It’s working with clients and family for weeks or months, going through a lifetime of possessions. You have to be a good listener.”
Older people move much less frequently than younger people. TO Census Bureau report in 2022 found that between 2015 and 2019, about 6.2% of the population 65 and older had moved in any given year, compared with about 15% of the younger population. Even so, the migration of older people exceeded three million adults a year. The rate increased among those 85 and older and those with disabilities.
The most common reasons for moving? Living closer to family members topped the list, especially among those 75 and older, according to a poll published in the Journal of the American Planning Association last year. Respondents also cited better neighborhoods and reduced housing costs.
Although senior movers often work with adult children to help their parents move, the industry is seeing an increase in the number of younger seniors hiring movers for themselves, Ms Buysee added.
Alissa Ballot, a New York native, had already moved from a house in Florida to an apartment in Chicago when, in 2021, she decided that “it was time to move home.” But selling her Chicago home while she was looking for an apartment in New York during the pandemic became a “breakdown time,” said Ballot, 67, a retired attorney. “There were all these balls in the air, a few extra balls.”
Dawson Relocation Services in Chicago charged less than $1,000 (at $65 an hour) to arrange the move. “I was able to set a date to get on a plane with some bags and leave everything else to them,” Ms Ballot said. “It was a miracle”.
She unpacked alone, but she didn’t have to come back to clean and lock up her Chicago apartment. Marnie Dawson even helped her file claims when the moving company hit a couple of Ms. Ballot’s belongings.
(In addition to senior movers, seniors may encounter real estate agents, lawyers, senior housing staff, and others who are “certified relocation and transition specialists.” About 1,000 people have passed this credentialing exam, said Donna Surges Tatum, chair of the Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist Certification Board. The National Association of Realtors also designates “senior real estate specialists.”)
The relocation of older adults involves particular challenges. Unlike younger movers, they typically move to smaller spaces, not bigger ones, after decades of more time accumulating stuff. And their families, for better or worse, are often involved.
A mover has to be part social worker. “Sometimes we deal with people with cognitive problems. Family dynamics come into play,” said Diane Bjorkman, whose company serves the Twin Cities, smooth transitionsis the oldest and probably the largest senior move management company in the country.
A non-judgmental professional can often defuse tensions. “It’s not like you’re going to tell your mom, ‘Don’t take the broken recliner,’” Bjorkman said. “It’s another person saying, ‘Maybe another chair would work better.'”
My sister and I hired a senior move manager for our father, who was moving into an independent living apartment, when it became clear that discussing matters like how many identical plastic lanterns he needed could take months. We defer to a third party.
Still, in the end, the customer decides. One woman who hadn’t cooked for 20 years insisted that she needed to hold on to one particular pan, Bjorkman recalled. The woman also argued that, as someone who remembered the Depression, a freestanding freezer was a crucial source of comfort, even if it was full of expired food.
The roasting pan can be taken apart to fit under the bed in the new apartment, Bjorkman said. The freezer, still stocked with food, served as a side table in the living room.
The Nygrens did not make such unusual requests. His sons handled the weeks of sorting and stripping, and Ray Nygren, a retired engineer, drew detailed schematics of the new apartment, showing where the items should go.
RR Move Co. did the rest, packing up one day in March and moving into their new apartment the next day. At approximately 6 pm, Ms. Ricards and her team called the family to tell them they were ready for what she calls “the big reveal.”
“We walked in, and it was like walking into your house,” Beth Nygren said, sobbing into the phone. There were no boxes in sight. The movers had made the beds, set the clocks, made sure Ray’s computer was up and running.
“Everything was in its place: the clothes in the closet, the pictures on the wall, the things in the drawers,” Ms. Nygren said. “You could start living.”