How Do We Start the Process of Downsizing Our Home?

How Do We Start the Process of Downsizing Our Home?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I have decided it’s time to move to a senior living community. We have a large home in northern Michigan that we raised our family in. Now it’s too much to maintain. It’s costing us too much time and money.

Our goal is to start downsizing our house in preparation for a move this summer. Because we’ve lived here for so many years, the task feels overwhelming. We are hoping to find a two-bedroom apartment in a senior living community, so I know we will have to find new homes for a lot of our belongings.

Do you have any tips for helping us through this process? We could really use some advice.


Kelly in Glen Arbor, MI

Tips to Downsize Before a Move to Senior Living

Dear Kelly:

You aren’t alone! In fact, older adults often say downsizing is one of the leading reasons they delay moving, even when they are more than ready for change. My first piece of advice is to take your time downsizing, whenever possible. Since it sounds like you are already planning ahead, you are off to a good start.

Keep the following suggestions in mind when downsizing:

  • Decide what matters most.

Which pieces of furniture and belongings mean the most to you? Are there items you just can’t part with? Create a list of things you treasure most. Keep in mind that a senior living apartment won’t have as much space as a house. Also, create a separate list of important items that will need to be rehomed with a friend or loved one.

  • Secure treasured possessions.

Downsizing and moving can be a hectic, messy process. Before things become too rushed, find a place to securely store family heirlooms and other valuable possessions. Smaller items might be best placed in a safe or safe deposit box. Bigger items might need to go to a climate-controlled storage unit or a friend’s house that has extra space. This step can prevent important items from being misplaced or damaged. It also makes the closets and drawers look more spacious to potential buyers.

  • Start in least used rooms.

The process of downsizing usually goes more smoothly when you work through the house room-by-room. Start in rooms that you don’t use often, such as your children’s old rooms, the attic, or basement. Sort items into boxes according to their final destination, such as “give to family” or “donate to charity.”

  • Explore local charities that accept donations.

Another item to put on your to-do list is to explore local nonprofit agencies that accept donations. You’ll likely have clothing, household items, furniture, and outdoor items that need to be donated. Having a plan for unneeded items before you begin downsizing can make the process easier. Some nonprofits have pickup services for furniture and multiple boxes of smaller items, which can be especially helpful.

Create a Floor Plan

Finally, once you’ve chosen a senior living community to call home, you can plan more specific details. Create a floor plan that shows the dimensions, doorways, and windows for each room in your new apartment.

Measure each piece of furniture or household item you’d like to take with you. Map out your new home’s floor plan on graph paper or use a free online tool like Roomstyler or HomeByMe. This will give you and your husband a good idea about what will or won’t fit in the new space.

I hope this helps, Kelly! As you and your husband explore senior living communities in Michigan, please keep Heritage on your list. With locations throughout Michigan, you’ll likely find a community that best meets your needs and interests.

Kind regards,


What Is an Independent Living Community?

What Is an Independent Living Community?

Retirement is something most people plan for and look forward to over many years. Finally having the time and flexibility to travel, reconnect with old friends, pursue new passions, and spend time spoiling the grandkids are just a few perks of retiring. Sometimes, however, the burdens of home ownership can stand in the way of making the most of these years.

Maintaining a private residence can be expensive. And it’s often an expense that no longer makes financial sense. If your home has more space than you need, it’s more than just a physical burden. The extra cost of property taxes, utilities, and homeowner’s insurance are a financial burden.

This is when it might be good to consider a move to an independent living community.

What Is an Independent Living Community?

Independent living communities are a senior housing option designed with the active senior in mind. Older adults who choose to move to independent living are typically looking for a lifestyle free from the worries of home maintenance and repairs. Most are seeking a retirement housing solution that allows more time to focus on the social side of life.

Independent living communities come in several forms:

  • Apartments in a dedicated independent living community
  • Apartments on the campus of a larger continuing care community
  • Maintenance-free villas or small cottages that are part of a retirement community

What advantages do independent living communities offer residents? Let’s explore a few of the most common ones.

Benefits of Moving to an Independent Living Community

Here are a few benefits older adults cite as their favorite reasons to live in an independent living community:

  • No maintenance or repairs: A move to independent living comes with a maintenance-free lifestyle. No more worries about shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, replacing the windows, or fixing the dishwasher.
  • 24-hour security: Independent living communities provide a safe and secure environment for older adults. From fire suppression systems and an emergency call system to around-the-clock staff, seniors can feel safe living alone.
  • Transportation: Ready to hang up the car keys for good? The transportation services offered by many independent living communities make that easier to do.
  • Dining services: Another benefit of moving to an independent living community is no more cooking! You’ll typically find a variety of menu options and dining programs.
  • Amenities: Depending on the community you choose, you’ll find a host of convenient amenities: housekeeping, laundry, transportation, a beauty/barber shop, outings to popular local destinations, and a wide range of events and activities.
  • Socialization: Independent living communities offer meaningful ways to connect and make new friends. It could be over a cup of coffee in the dining room or during a walk through the campus. Then there are more formal activities, such as an art workshop or fitness class.

Independent Living Communities Offer Peace of Mind

Another advantage you’ll discover by moving to an independent living community is peace of mind. Safety and security are only part of it. There’s also the peace of mind that comes from knowing that staff can usually accommodate future care needs.

For seniors seeking independent living in Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to consider Heritage Senior Communities. Call us today to schedule a private visit!

Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

My siblings and I have been dividing up caregiving duties for our father for several years. We all live about the same distance from him, and it’s worked well until recently. Dad’s personal care needs have increased, and we are struggling to keep up with everything.

My brothers and I think it is time to consider assisted living. My dad has gotten a little unsteady on his feet and has come close to falling several times. He’s also isolated living in his big house alone. I worry something will happen to him, and we won’t know.

Could moving to an assisted living community help my dad? How will moving benefit him?

Best regards,

Tina in Midland, MI

Benefits of Assisted Living Communities

Dear Tina:

While every situation is unique, some red flags indicate an older adult might not be safe living alone in their home. Your dad seems to be displaying some of the most common ones. Choosing to make a move before an emergency arises gives you more time to make an informed decision.

If you are trying to talk with your dad about the benefits of assisted living, here are a few points to include:

  • Environment: Assisted living communities are designed with senior safety in mind. Some of the standard features and amenities may offer the support your dad needs. Handrails in hallways, accessible bathrooms, grab bars in key locations, good lighting, and single-floor living are a few.
  • Socialization: Loneliness and isolation are linked to a decline in health among older people. So, you are right to worry about your dad feeling lonely. It can contribute to depression, loss of core strength, diabetes, cardiac disease, and more. In an assisted living community, residents benefit from formal and informal activities throughout the day.
  • Nutrition: Depending on the community, residents usually enjoy a variety of in-house dining and menu options. Seniors who move to an assisted living community often find their health improves simply by having easy access to well-balanced meals. Research shows that poor nutrition is sometimes linked to a higher risk for falls.
  • Transportation: One of the services assisted living residents use most often is transportation. Residents can go on planned community outings, such as to a local shopping mall or restaurant. In addition, they can schedule transportation for appointments. This service allows seniors to maintain a sense of independence.
  • Medication management: Assisted living caregivers also handle all the details of managing residents’ medications. They assist at dosage time, order refills, and watch for adverse reactions. This brings peace of mind to residents and their loved ones.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your family, Tina! Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana

A family-owned business for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. We invite you to call the location nearest you to learn more today!

How to Spark Joy in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

How to Spark Joy in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

If a senior in your family has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you might find yourself wondering how they are feeling. As the disease impairs their communication skills, it can be tough to assess their emotional well-being. Dementia experts have long believed that people with even advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia can experience sadness and joy. However, there wasn’t any concrete evidence to prove it.

In 2010, a study conducted at the University of Iowa showed how emotions linger after memory fails. Let’s look at the study and how you can spark joy for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

What Research Shows about Alzheimer’s, Emotions, and Memory

The study was comprised of 34 older adults who were split into two groups: a group of adults with Alzheimer’s disease and a group of healthy adults.

Researchers first asked each participant how they were feeling and documented their responses. Once a baseline emotional status was determined, participants were shown eight movie and television scenes considered to be sad. Five minutes after participants were done watching the scenes, researchers asked each participant what they remembered and how they felt. They repeated these questions after 15 minutes and then again 30 minutes later.

After taking a five-minute break, the study resumed.

This time, participants were shown movie and television clips believed to stimulate joy and happiness. Researchers then asked each participant the same sequence of follow-up questions as before.

The study seemed to indicate that even though the participants with Alzheimer’s couldn’t recall what they watched, they did remember how the scenes made them feel. Their memories were gone, but the emotions lingered. Unfortunately, this research suggests that sadness is the emotion that lasts the longest.

While this study was small, it offers preliminary support for the need to create meaningful days and a positive environment for adults with Alzheimer’s. So, what can you do to spark joy for a loved one with dementia? Here are a few ideas you might find helpful.

Creating Happy Days for Adults with Dementia

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help calm anxiety. It also promotes feelings of accomplishment and purpose, especially outdoor activities. Walking is a great option. During colder months, stretching or chair yoga can boost happiness.
  • Music: Music therapy has well-documented therapeutic benefits. Play music from your loved one’s happiest days. If they are able, encourage them to dance or shuffle around a bit with you. They will not only benefit from the activity, but from the memories the music sparks. If you have kids in the house, try to get them to join you!
  • Gardening: This is another life enrichment activity shown to benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease. Get supplies for a stand up or raised garden bed, container garden, or window box. These forms of gardening have a lower risk for falls. A word of caution: use only non-toxic plants in case the older adult ingests them. You might want to quickly review this list of toxic plants.
  • Nature: People don’t always realize what a stressbuster spending time in nature can be. For an adult with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, caring for birds, watching the butterflies, and just relaxing in the sunshine can lift the spirit.
  • Arts and crafts: One of the best parts of enjoying arts and crafts is the variety of ability levels these projects can encompass. From simple activities like putting photos in an album to more detailed ones like watercolor painting, the very process of creating is empowering.
  • Pets: While you might not have time to adopt a dog or cat, a visit to a petting zoo or humane society might give your loved one a chance to enjoy a little pet therapy. Some rescue organizations look for volunteers to spend time with the animals they are trying to rehome. You could make it a weekly outing if your senior loved one is able to safely do so.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage

At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the vital role life enrichment activities play in promoting joy and self-esteem in our residents with dementia. From raised gardening beds to music therapy, residents in our dementia care neighborhoods enjoy specialized programming designed to work with their abilities. Call the Heritage dementia care community nearest you to learn more today!