Moving On Down
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Last Wednesday, a moving van pulled up to the three-level, four-bedroom Potomac home where Ernie and Ann Stacey had spent the past 33 years, rearing three children among furnishings and keepsakes acquired during a half-century of marriage.
Twenty-four hours and 6.4 miles later, the couple walked into their new home, a two-bedroom retirement apartment in Bethesda, and found themselves blinking back tears of both joy and relief.
"Oh, my goodness, I can't believe these are my things. It's so gorgeous. It looks better than it did at home," said Ann Stacey, 73, as her husband, 81, echoed the sentiment with a simple, "I can't get over this."
The Navy had moved the couple 11 times during Ernie Stacey's military career. This move, No. 12, was overseen by Susie Danick, a retired nurse whose Gaithersburg company did everything from booking the van and planning where to put the furniture to buying a chandelier, adding closet storage and hooking up the cable TV.
Danick's firm, Transitional Assistance and Design, is one of a relatively new type of business that helps older people move from homes that have come to seem too large into new quarters that might easily seem too small and unfamiliar. They help clients choose the cherished furnishings to bring along and arrange the logistics of the move. Part amateur designer and part social worker, Danick said she tries to make the transition as comforting as possible, right down to photographing chairs, tables, rugs and knickknacks in the old house and re-creating as much of that familiarity as possible in the new surroundings.
With seniors living longer and leading healthier lives, their housing options have expanded, said Margit Novack, who started Moving Solutions in suburban Philadelphia 10 years ago and now has five franchises around the country. More people are moving to retirement communities and assisted living centers, and they need help with the physical chore of relocating as well as the emotional strain of downsizing, said Novack, the first president of the 80-member National Association of Senior Move Managers formed in 2002. She estimated that there are as many as 200 other firms that provide similar services.
Designer Pam Newton of Reston began specializing in senior moves six years ago. "We get the moving company, we help them get rid of things. We'll call in appraisers, refinishers, reupholstery people. We'll purchase new things and get the windows done, the walls. Sometimes we take out builder-grade carpeting and put in hardwood or tile floors. . . . In some cases we're pulling out the tub and installing a roll-in or step-in shower."
Senior move managers usually charge $65 to $125 an hour in this area, but costs vary depending on the services required and the region of the country. The Staceys paid Danick about $3,500, which broke down to $2,700 for her firm's labor plus $800 for lighting, hardware and a bit of carpentry.
Newton recently charged about $25,000 to relocate a woman who moved into a two-bedroom, assisted-living apartment half the size of her previous space. The total included her design fee as well as new furniture, custom painting, and the services of an organizer and project administrator.
The cost of the move is usually separate from the move manager's fees.
Even if seniors cannot afford a fully orchestrated move -- which can include throwing out worn items, arranging a charity pickup, buying new furniture and "staging" the home for resale -- their children, members of the sandwich generation who are often busy rearing their own offspring and working full time, may pick up the tab.
Senior move managers also appeal to family members who can't bear to oversee every detail of the long, wrenching process.