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Downsizing as Seniors, One Step at a Time

As people age and children leave the house, many parents entering retirement age use the opportunity to downsize their home and belongings. Rather than downsizing all at once, a growing trend among seniors is to do so in steps over a period of years. In earlier generations, the elderly usually downsized all at once and only once. Now, an overwhelming number of older people are taking a more gradual approach to downsizing, choosing to reduce a house or career but not doing so all at once.

Trends in Downsizing

Rather than selling the house and moving to a warmer climate, many downsizing elders are opting to stay in the same neighborhood or at least the same town. A survey by the AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that 87% of those age 65 years old and older, and 71% of those ages 50 to 64, preferred to stay close to their longtime neighborhoods instead of making the traditional choice of packing up and moving to a resort area or assisted living facility.

As the elderly are living longer, healthier, and more productive as they age the opportunity to retire and downsize multiple times increases. In addition, there are signs that the more gradual approach involving many moves is becoming established behavior.

Reasons for Multi-Step Downsizing

Researchers have said that multi-step retirement may be more common for the Baby Boomer generation for a variety of factors. First, there are more two-earner families doing significant work. More women hold jobs that they find aspirational, thus delaying a final major downsizing or making smaller steps in downsizing.

Another reason is for multiple step downsizing is that as seniors live longer, they feel the need to continue to work in some capacity in order to have enough money. Many seniors retire, rethink their finances, downsize, go back to work, and then retire again. On the other hand, some seniors feel their mortality and just jump on something for a while before really downsizing.

Examples of Downsizing

One couple who had just retired thought that they should prepare for the future by moving from their large family home into something smaller, a few miles away from their original home. After a couple of decades, the couple decided to downsize again into a retirement facility with the amenities and help that they need.

Another couple cut back their working hours once at retirement age and took an exciting opportunity to work abroad. Upon returning, they moved into a smaller home that was also less expensive. After a few years of not working, the couple decided to go back and take part-time jobs. A few more years later the couple decided to retire for good.

A third couple had already taken some smaller steps to retire when the husband had a triple bypass surgery. Since then, the couple has traveled around the country in a recreational vehicle for six months at a time and alternating six months at home. They travel around the area of their campgrounds and are trying to see a baseball game at every major league park.

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