If you’re thinking about moving from your current residence, how much living space you need is a key factor in the decision-making process. You can find quite a bit of information about downsizing, but what if you looked at it a different way? Rightsizing your life can open you up to a world of new possibilities for retirement living.
What’s the difference between downsizing and rightsizing?
Downsizing is the process of moving to a smaller residence and, therefore, getting rid of furniture and household items you don’t need and won’t fit into the new space.
The definition of rightsizing is actually broader than that. Kathy Gottberg, author of “RightSizing: A Smart Living Guide to Reinventing Retirement,” defines it like this: “Simply put, rightsizing is the conscious choice to create a life and a lifestyle that more sustainably aligns with your unique self in the best possible way at every stage.”
In other words, rightsizing your life means asking what’s really important, then aligning the way you live with those values, goals and needs. When you do that, you’re able to create a more fulfilling life.
Rightsizing for Seniors
For some, this may mean moving to a smaller residence, while others may decide they need more space than they currently have. But it could mean choosing the simplicity, convenience and opportunities that come with being part of a senior living community.
How do you decide which is right for you? Start by taking an honest look at your values, goals and needs, both now and for the foreseeable future.
There’s more to your senior living choices than the size of your residence. Honestly evaluate these core values so you can make a decision that helps you live how you truly want to.
- Having a strong social network of friends
- Finding purpose and fulfillment
- Taking care of my mind, body and spirit
- Having quality health care available if I need it
- Having predictable living expenses
- Making my own choices
- Feeling true peace of mind about the future
- Protecting my estate for my loved ones
- Not burdening my family with becoming my caregiver
Now think about how your current residence — and its expenses — supports these values or gets in the way. How would your living situation need to change for you to align your lifestyle with these values?
How do you want to spend your time and energy? What will make life more fulfilling for you? Use this list to start evaluating how you’re currently spending your time and what you’d like to do more of if you could.
- Attending cultural events
- Pursuing fitness activities
- Spending time with friends
- Learning something new
- Attending a study group or book club
- Swimming, biking, hiking or golfing
- Creatively expressing myself
- Spending time with family
Again, how does your current residence support your goals? How would your living situation need to change for you to pursue these goals more easily?
Caring Transitions, a senior relocation service, recommends that before deciding whether downsizing or rightsizing is best for you, you should consider five key needs:
Physical health. You or your spouse/partner may have some health or mobility issues that make living in your current house more difficult. But even if you have good physical health now, you need to ensure your residence can accommodate potential future health or age-related needs.
Why does that matter so much? Because 70% of people ages 65+ will need some type of long-term care services — and only about 1% of existing houses are conducive to aging in place. As you consider your housing options, be sure to factor in how they can accommodate your physical needs both now and in the future.
Mental well-being. Maintenance and upkeep can be stressful and costly. Living too far away from activities and opportunities that keep you intellectually stimulated can impact brain health. And living where you’re isolated from others can increase your risk of cognitive decline. Seeking a residence that reduces your stress and increases the likelihood of improving your mental health is vital — no matter what the square footage is.
Financial plans. Many seniors worry about outliving their retirement funds. So as you evaluate your housing choices, factor in monthly expenses that come with each, as well as potential age-related home modifications and health care costs, so you can see how they’ll impact your finances in the long term.
Family. It’s common for seniors to move closer to family so they can spend more time together. If your adult children are spread out around the country, you’ll need to decide whether to move closer to one of them or to a more central location with a convenient travel hub.
Another family aspect to consider is whether or not you plan to have a relative become your caregiver, if the need ever arises. Be sure to ask questions like these:
- Should you and your caregiver live in the same house?
- Can that house accommodate such an arrangement, or will modifications need to be made?
- Do you really want a loved one to become your caregiver? While it has benefits, there are financial, emotional and relational drawbacks to consider.
- What if you don’t have family who can care for you if you need it?
Lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle do you want? If you want to focus on travel, you may want to find a smaller residence to serve as your home base. If you want to open your doors to family, friends and out-of-town guests, a place with extra room for hosting and entertaining may be in order.
Lifestyle needs can also inform the location you choose. A relaxing lifestyle in the country or the bustling life of a vibrant downtown? Warm weather all year, or four distinct seasons?
How Senior Living Can Fit into Your Rightsizing Plan
A national survey of senior living residents found that the top reasons for choosing to live in a continuing care retirement community (also known as a Life Plan Community) were having access to a full continuum of care, the social aspects of community life, and regular health and wellness programs.
A separate study comparing wellness outcomes found that, overall, residents of these types of communities reported their social, intellectual, physical, and emotional wellness have improved since moving to a Life Plan Community.
Senior living communities offer maintenance-free apartments, townhomes, and free-standing villa and cottage-style residences that come in a range of floor plans and square footage. With access to activities and programs that meet physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs, residents can easily create the lifestyle that suits the way they want to enjoy retirement. And many communities have health services available, such as assisted living, memory care, rehab and skilled nursing. So if your health needs change, you can have a plan in place to meet them.
Knowing the difference between downsizing and rightsizing makes a big difference in the practical aspects of making a move — and in your mindset about it. Author Gottberg sums it up this way: “Rightsizing is about being honest with yourself enough to figure out what you are spending money on and whether that money is worth the time, effort and spirit you invest earning it. Best of all, rightsizing is about finding what brings your life meaning, makes you smile, and allows you to sleep well and deeply every single night. If you don’t have that now, maybe it’s time to rightsize your life.”
If you’d like to explore senior living options as part of your rightsizing plan, you can use the locator tool to find a community near you.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.