The headline of a New York Times article in August 2017 summarized the dilemma perfectly: “Aging parents with lots of stuff, and children who don’t want it.”
As older parents retire and choose to downsize by moving into a smaller home, a senior apartment or a retirement community, they may discover that they and younger family members view the value of household possessions and even some family heirlooms much differently.
Younger generations show less interest in family possessions
In the Times story, reporter Tom Verde wrote, “The competitive accumulation of material goods, a cornerstone of the American dream, dates to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans fled the cities to establish homes and status in the suburbs. Couples married when they were young, and wedding gifts were meant to be used—and treasured—for life.”
But many adult children—and grandchildren, even more—don’t attach status or sentiment to such mementoes. They may not desire decorative knickknacks, jewelry, furniture and family keepsakes that have held special meaning for parents and grandparents. As seniors downsize, children typically select a few items, some photographs and a piece of furniture or two. But they are content to let the remainder of their parents’ castoffs find a new home elsewhere.
Personal values change from generation to generation. Seniors shouldn’t equate younger persons’ lack of interest in their “stuff” with a lack of affection for them. On the contrary, many younger persons today value experiences more than material items, so what they treasure most is memories and photos of happy times spent together.
So, what to do with “all that stuff” if you move to a senior living community?
Take some comfort in knowing that most items you no longer need or have space for will be of interest to someone, even if it is a collector or antiques dealer.
If you wish to sell some possessions, you can take them to an auction or sell them on eBay. Perhaps you would rather give them to a reputable charity. Most areas have second-hand stores with proceeds benefitting community service organizations. Some of them will even pick up items at your home. Be aware, though, that these shops might already be stocked with more than they can sell and may not want everything you have. (You can read more about downsizing in our Aug. 18, 2017 blog post, “Simplify during senior living: downsize, organize, personalize and enjoy.”)
Know that you certainly aren’t alone in this senior living quandary. In fact, businesses exist with the sole purpose of assisting seniors and their families with downsizing. There are enough of these companies to warrant their own organization—the National Association of Senior Move Managers. You can check out their website to find a professional in your area.
Are you considering a move to a senior community?
If you or a loved one are choosing a retirement community, we invite you to contact us at Country Meadows Retirement Communities. We would be glad to provide you with information on our senior living homes or schedule a visit for you to see firsthand how retirees at our active senior living communities lead, full productive lives. We can give you a preview of any of our homes for independent living or assisted living/personal care homes.
Country Meadows has 10 retirement communities in PA—in Lancaster, Hershey, Mechanicsburg, Pittsburgh, Wyomissing, York-South, York-West, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton—as well as a Frederick, MD retirement home.