Senior move managers help Charlotte residents downsize
After Anna-Louise Fitzgerald's doctor diagnosed her with a heart condition, the active 68-year-old decided to put her affairs in order. That meant downsizing by selling her home in Fort Mill, S.C., and making plans to move to the Southminster Retirement Community in Charlotte, where she'll have easy access to nurses and others her age.
"My children are all in their 40s and have children," Fitzgerald says. "If something happened to me, caretaking is a full-time job. That's stress I don't want them to have."
Making the decision to move was easy, Fitzgerald says. But deciding which pieces to keep and what items to toss or donate? That proved to be more difficult because of the large quantity of things she's accumulated during her lifetime. On the advice of Southminster, Fitzgerald hired a senior move manager to help make those decisions and arrange the move details.
"It's the best money I ever spent at this age," she says of the $7,000 she expects to pay Smooth Transitions Charlotte, a national franchise that helps seniors downsize and coordinate their moves. The company has multiple highly rated locations on the List.
The senior move management industry helps aging adults transition into smaller homes, apartments or nursing homes. According to the National Association of Senior Move Managers, founded in 2002 and now boasting more than 600 members, its most popular services include move planning, oversight of the actual move, unpacking and setting up a new home.
Move managers require no certification or special licenses: They refer licensed moving companies to perform the move.
Some seniors hire move managers for themselves, as Fitzgerald did, while other clients arrange services for relatives because they may be too busy or live far away.
When Angie's List member Pat McLaughlin of Charlotte moved his 83-year-old mother-in-law from her 2,300-square-foot home of 20 years into a 1,000-square-foot senior condominium last year, he says he didn't know such services existed - or how much work the move would entail. He and his wife took on the task of packing and selling the home, and they hired highly rated Gentle Giant to move everything his mother-in-law wanted to keep.
"What was really important when we hired Gentle Giant is my wife tipped them off that this was going to be very difficult for her mother, and they were very responsive to that," McLaughlin says. "They were very conscientious, sympathetic and considerate of my wife's mother, rather than just moving the furniture, and that helped a lot."
Gentle Giant, with franchises in several states, trains its crews to work with specific client needs, such as those who find it difficult to emotionally detach themselves from their belongings, says Charlotte branch manager Jon Vogel. They also offer senior move management services. "When you're going from 2,500 [square feet] to 500 square feet, there's a lot of stuff that has to go," he says.
Gentle Giant works with local agencies to donate used items, Vogel adds, and their senior clients see that their donations support a good cause.
Mary O'Gorman, who oversees Gentle Giant's national senior move management program, says more people are asking for help. Her services range from $400 to $1,000, depending on chosen services and how long the tasks take, and she helps with everything from organizing the items to unpacking boxes in the new home.
"A lot of people have mentioned they chose Gentle Giant because we had this service," O'Gorman says. "It's worth it to them because as people age, they have money put aside and they know this move will be the last move."
Tina Braun, a member of NASMM who co-owns Smooth Transitions Charlotte with her mom, BJ Vance, says she tries to ease the emotional trauma by setting up the new home with similar furniture or picture arrangements. She also photographs the old home and gives it to clients as a memory book.
"There may be more emotional value than monetary value, and it's really hard to part with something when there's just no room," she says. "So a lot of hand-holding takes place."