Seasons Magazines

Seasons Magazines

Navigating the Challenges of Home and Community Transitions for Seniors

By Melissa Nicefaro


The transition from a long-time home to senior living or a smaller space is a big step. It’s exciting, but it’s also emotional, scary and very overwhelming at times with years’ worth of memories and mementos to contend with. Many don’t know trash from treasure and are lost with what to do with it all. Luckily, there are an abundance of resources in the local area waiting to help aging adults through this journey.

Liz Cornish, founder of New Season in Life senior and memory care consultants is a certified senior advisor. She spends time with families focusing on elderly members’ strengths and challenges so that they can make an educated decision for their next steps in life.

“Within our network of resources that we’ve amassed over 30 years, we have trusted resources that know the communities, know seniors and can help them with all that transition process,” Cornish said. She provides seniors with direction on downsizing and organizing and connects them with resources to help them move and sell their home. “Seniors can be concerned about what’s going to happen to all their belongings as they’re moving from a big house. The things they have are valuable to them, and most people will bring the most valuable things, but they still want to make sure their things aren’t thrown out.”

“A lot of adult children live differently than our parents did. The kids don’t want the things that their parents loved but they do want to make sure that their stuff is going somewhere where it’s valued,” Cornish said.

Most downsizers and transition people ensure that very little goes to the dump. The items go to underserved, veterans and other places where they’ll be repurposed and given to people who were in need.

“Different companies work better with certain people,” Cornish said, knowing that seniors can have varying personalities, emotions and needs. “I have a company that if someone needs all the coddling, handholding and loving, they’re fabulous at that. Others have different strengths.”

Most of her clients are looking to move to an assisted living community so her process starts with finding out what their needs are, including their financial situation.

“But then also who they are, what do they love, what’s their personality? Are they outgoing? Are they social? Are they very independent? That helps narrow down to the best communities. I present two or three possibilities so they feel like they have control in the situation and ultimately it is their decision,” Cornish said.

More times than not, a senior’s house has over 50 years’ worth of stuff. Leslie Raycraft is the founder of POSH organizing. Among her clients are seniors who taking the next step. She organizes, working through clients’ belongings things, decluttering, then creating systems that are personal to each client, realizing that this process is not one size fits all. She often works with those with a hoarding disorder or who are overwhelmed with a lifetime of belongings.

“Instead of leaving it for your kids, let go of all the clutter and keep the things that mean the most. That’s your legacy,” Raycraft suggested. “Don’t wait. Many people say they’re leaving it all to their kids and they can deal with it, but that’s the quickest way your kids are going to start fighting, or they’re just going to say forget it and throw it all out, including items of value.”

Setting aside any items that can be sold, she works with an individual who sells on eBay and Facebook, trying to make as much money for the client as possible as it can be an expensive endeavor to clear out a house.

“I found some Star Wars figures in their boxes. The three Star Wars figures went for over $800. We have a good sense of what can be sold because we want to offset the cost as much as possible,” Raycraft said. “If they’re downsizing, we help them figure out what’s important for them to take, what’s multifunctional, especially when they’re moving to small spaces. You want it to be home, but you also need things that are not just pretty, but functional.”

For many, moving from a house where they have lived for more than 50 years and leaving behind memories and mementos can be an anxiety producing transition. Since it can be hard and emotional, Raycraft recommended starting the process of decluttering and downsizing now so that when the time comes, the transition is easier.

“Start early. Start slow. Just plug away at it. That way they can say goodbye to it versus all of a sudden doing it,” she said. “No one brings something into their house that they generally don’t value, that they don’t love. To have to let it go, it’s hard; it’s not easy. Decluttering is like a muscle. The more you do, the easier it is.”

Once the clutter is gone, moving time has come. Kate Gervais, a realtor with ROVI Homes, finds it important to thoroughly understand what it is that her clients want to accomplish and the earlier she can get the transitional process going, the better.

“Selling the house doesn’t have to be today or in a year, we need to know what is important to them and what they care about. I have a background in strategic planning and am good at saying, if you do this, here are the things that could happen, and here are the things you need to know to decide. And here is some homework to figure out what you need to do that. I help people get out of this rut of not making a decision,” she said.

“If people have been in their home a while, I’ve developed Asset Keeper, a home inspection program,” Gervais spoke about her focus on preserving the equity in a house. “A lot of times people haven’t had a home inspection since they bought their house, and they do not know the true condition of their house. And it’s really important to know.”

It’s a safety measure since there could be something that’s deteriorating the house right now; if plans aren’t to move for a couple of years, the house could decrease in value during that time, Gervais pointed out. Many of her clients are what she calls young seniors who go to a condo or a 55+ community. Surprisingly, not everyone is downsizing.

“I don’t ever go into a situation and assume. I want to go in and say, what do you love about your house? What do you not love? What is working? What isn’t working? And you might find out that your house actually could work for you. I am not here to convince you to move because it’s not about what works for me, it’s about what works for you,” she said.

She suggested starting the thought process sooner than later. “I am not in a rush, and if you’re not in a rush, let’s give you the best support possible and talk sooner. It makes perfect sense to get that groundwork done before you’re facing some kind of illness or crisis or death in the family or something that’s just making you jump.”

For many seniors, the transition from home to senior living takes some time. For that population, LiveWell in Plantsville offers programs to help seniors ease into the next steps of senior living. It has 65 assisted living apartments and 76 skilled nursing beds, but also offers support for aging people to remain in their homes through occupational therapy with therapists helping seniors age in place longer as their brains change.

“At LiveWell, we support people with cognitive change and dementia, and support their brain health wherever they are in their life’s journey. We’re looking to create a place of community, inclusion and belonging for people with all different types of cognition at different ages and different backgrounds,” said Maley Hunt, LiveWell’s chief operating officer.

About a year ago, LiveWell opened its Resilient Living Center offering courses, programs and special events. The center has a fitness area, hydro massage beds, an art studio and a clinic. “It’s a whole building designated to promoting people’s wellbeing. Through that, we’re trying to support not just people living with cognitive change, but also their care partners,” said Hunt.

Seniors can, for example, bring their relatives to an exercise class, a cognitive simulation therapy class or a music program. And while the senior is engaged in the activity, the family member is given a respite advantage of access to the center’s resources and can—among many other things—use the gym or the hydro massage bed.

“So, it’s really this destination of vibrancy for the greater community. Most of our members are in the greater central Connecticut area,” said Hunt. The center also has virtual offerings that are used by people across seven states now.

“As a nonprofit, our mission extends beyond the people who live here. We want to reach so many more and the Resilient Living Center is our way to do that. It’s a great path for people to get to know us and then feel comfortable and to want to stay a part of the community,” Hunt concluded.


Melissa Nicefaro is a writer for magazines and business publications across Connecticut. She lives in Orange with her husband and two daughters.