Ron and Jane Smirl relax in their townhome in the Westhills neighbourhood of Langford. They chose to scale down their living arrangements after their children moved out of the family home about five years ago.

HOMEFINDER: Downsizing can help create healthy lifestyle

Realtor Valerie Edwards offers up her experience with scaling down in home size

Many empty nesters immediately plan to sell their family home as soon as the last child is out the door. They look forward to freeing up cash for travelling and freeing up time to do the fun things they previously couldn’t do because of family responsibilities, gardening and home maintenance.

On the other hand, “I’ll be leaving my home when they carry me out in a box” is a comment I’ve often heard from elderly owners who intend to live in their family home until they pass away. I understand the strong emotional attachment some people have to a home where all their family memories were created.

The government is doing its bit to help them by offering the deferred property tax program and tax relief to install things like grab-bars to enable people to live in their home as long and safely as possible. The assumption is that people will be happier living in their current home no matter the challenges.

However, I have seen the down side of this philosophy. I recall working with a lovely couple in their mid- to-late 80s. Unfortunately, she had dementia and was physically frail. He was doing better, but not great. They were hiring myriad companies to take care of their property, inside and out, as well as in-home care for her and meals for both of them.

By the time they couldn’t manage on their own, selling and moving seemed formidable, physically and emotionally. Family wasn’t close by, so I hired a downsizing company for them, who helped them sort through and divest themselves of everything they couldn’t take with them. Even with the best of care, it was a trying time for them.

The most lamentable thing I noticed was the social isolation this normally gregarious couple had been experiencing for some time.

Loneliness is not something easily quantifiable, but it is nonetheless very real and substantially reduces the quality of one’s life.

A good motto to live by is: move when you want to, not when you have to. Here are some other clues that indicate you should be considering an alternative lifestyle:

• You’d rather spend your money on a trip or treating your grandchildren than on house maintenance and updating

• You’re only using a few rooms of the house

• You don’t have the money to maintain your home and it’s slowly deteriorating around you

• Your hips and knees can’t take climbing the stairs anymore, or your unstable balance has resulted in a few falls around the home

• You’re starting to forget important matters to do with your home and life in general

• You’re not eating well because shopping, cooking, and clean-up is getting too laborious

• Your children are expressing concerns for your safety and well–being

Perhaps 30 years ago, there weren’t many housing options other than to stay in the family home, but this certainly is no longer the case.

In another column I’ll discuss these options in detail.

Valerie Edwards is an agent with Pemberton Holmes Realty. She can be reached at valerie@valerieedwards.com.

Q: WHO SHOULD I CONTACT IF I’M LOOKING TO DOWNSIZE?

With many couples and individuals looking at retiring and shifting their priorities these days, or simply cutting down on the amount of living space they realistically need, local companies have sprung up in recent years to help deal with that situation.

With names like Downsizing Diva and Downsizing Solutions, these organizations have taken the art of scaling down on stuff to a new, professional level.

Cheri Crause with Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty in Oak Bay is a certified professional consultant on aging (CPCA) and contributor, along with spouse Rick Hoogendoorn, to Senior Living magazine’s  book, To Move or Not to Move? – A Helpful Guide for Seniors Considering Their Residential Options, she knows the challenges people face as they grow older and their housing needs change.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » MONTH TO DATE,  APRIL 20/15

COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 479 / 664 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, APRIL 2014

» 879 / 1,521 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, APRIL 2014

» 3,894 / 4,404 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL, APRIL 2014

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