To Downsize or Age in Place?
Oct 21st, 2019 by: Wendy and Nancy
Downsizing, or moving to smaller apartments or condos as the retirement phase approaches is usually the norm. But lately, we’ve seen a shift in this trend. In Canada, approximately half of the Canadian population doesn’t want to move to smaller houses, they want to retire and stay put in the home they’ve lived in for most of their middle-aged years. This trend is not only affecting the housing market but also poses a big question: where will all the millennials go if there are not enough houses on the market?
Millennials, the generation comprising of people born in the 80s, are now transitioning into the phase of life where they’re moving to bigger houses to settle down with their growing families. Unfortunately, with downsizing often not being considered an option by the baby boomer population, millennials who are looking for houses to buy are in trouble! The divided stance on the subject of downsizing has given millennials and gen Z a tough challenge to solve: to downsize or not to downsize? Age in the same place or move to another?
When we buy a house in our late twenties or mid-thirties, we may not necessarily be looking at it from the perspective of how comfortable it may be once we ‘age’. Our priorities, needs, and requirements from a house at that particular point in our lives are totally different from what they might be later on as we age. But as time goes on and our lives move through chapters that see our children leaving the nest, and us retiring from work, people often want to move to a smaller and more ‘manageable’ space.
7 Common Reasons to downsize:
1. Downsize because the house is too big
Moving into a new, big house is exciting and a milestone moment of joy, pride, responsibility and most importantly, achievement! We feel a sense of establishment as we pay the down payment for our first house with the family. With the kids growing up, the house feels just the right size. But as they grow older and move out, the same house can feel more and more empty. This emptiness may not bother everyone, but some are deeply affected by it and this proves to be a popular reason as to why people move to a smaller space.
2. Downsize because the stairs are a bit too much
Even if you don’t find the emptiness of your house haunting you, you (like everyone else) will still most likely hit the point where walking up and down the stairs is a mission you would rather not tackle every day. A house that doesn’t need you to take the stairs at all may be something that actually excites you.
3. Downsize because the house is located in an area that requires you to drive a lot
Driving is hectic, especially when you’re older and have to take the car out of the garage for almost all your needs. It’s way too much for an old couple who’s just retired and wants to spend quality time without the exertion of driving all over the place.
4. Downsize because the house needs maintenance and a lot of work
All the cleaning, dusting and gardening can really begin to take a toll on you as you get older. Smaller houses are easier to maintain; you still have to work, but not as much. And not only that, but who wants to have to pay utility bills for just two people/one person living in such a big house? A smaller house costs a lot less to heat or cool – this kind of energy-saving is not only good for the environment but for your pocket too.
5. Downsize to add some money to your bank account
You can buy a smaller, cheaper house from the proceeds of your big family house, and add the rest to your bank account. Additionally, you will also raise money from selling your belongings such as furniture, appliances you don’t need anymore, old books etc.
6. Downsizing is a retirement plan that may reduce stress
If you move from a bigger house to a smaller one, you’ll have much more time to yourself given that the housework won’t be as much. You will have less responsibilities, be able to socialize and attend gatherings without being worried about pending household chores – all of these factors play a major role in reducing your stress levels.
7. Downsize because you can live closer to your children
Some people also downsize and choose to settle down closer to where their children live. This makes it much easier to meet them often and be more involved in their lives.
Why Age in Place?
The reasons for aging in place are largely personal. And people who have downsized stand divided in terms of their happiness and comfort levels. Most baby boomers who are now in their 60s or 70s don’t ever plan on moving to smaller houses, some reasons for this may be:
1. The move can be difficult
Downsizing can be particularly difficult, both physically and mentally for people in their 80s or 90s. A house isn’t just the four walls it’s made out of; it is all the memories and relationships that have been built there over time that make it into a home. Moving out of a house where you spent most of your midlife can be heartbreaking, to say the least, and some people would rather stay where they’ve been instead of making a change.
2. Single-family homes provide privacy and space
Who wants to sell the perfect house where they’ve spent the most cherished moments of their life? Who wants to move out of a house that has privacy and a lot of space to offer? From ample parking space for cars to a huge garden to sit in for a cup of tea, single-family homes have it all and baby boomers who don’t want to downsize don’t want to give it all up.
3. Because where will you accommodate your guests?
Well, like the name suggests downsizing literally forces you to reduce the size of your big family house to a small apartment or even a condo. And if you’re someone who is made of host material, and throwing parties and having guests visit is a big part of your life then where will you accommodate all of this in your new small apartment?
4. Because you may not save much after all
While it’s obvious that you will save some money by downsizing; you will also be spending some on buying new things like new furniture that actually fits. So you’ll probably be spending half of what you get.
5. Because you may miss your attic, basement or garage
You may be used to filling up your attic or basement with holiday decorations and household supplies like extra bulbs, brooms, cleaning fluids, flower pots, soaps etc. But if you move to a smaller house, you definitely won’t have storage large enough to fit any of these kinds of things.
6. Because your new house may not have room for all your belongings
We are emotional creatures. We cling to things and it’s hard for us to let go of them. Downsizing is not just a matter of moving to a house that is smaller in size, but also moving with less number of things we’re attached to. You won’t be able to take everything that holds emotional value for you. You will have to sell, give away and throw some (actually a lot) of your prized possessions. Your old books, music players, furniture, silverware, dining sets, candles, flower vases, vacation souvenirs, family heirlooms, knick-knacks and CDs and DVDs probably won’t all make it to your new home.
7. Because downsizing can be challenging
Many of you may not want to downsize because of the challenges that come with it. You may want to sell your belongings, but millennials may not want to buy them and you will probably have to throw more stuff out than you’ll buy while moving into your new house.
Moreover, many millennials don’t want to take the traditional route, and want to raise children in the same apartments they’re living in. Baby boomers who want to move may have a tough time looking for a house that’s cheaper than the one they’re currently residing in.
Aging in place Vs Downsizing: What’s the best for you?
While downsizing has many benefits of its own, staying and aging in the place you’ve lived in for years isn’t a bad deal either. But keeping in mind environmental factors – we personally think it’s best not to utilize energy you don’t require. Giving up your big family home to the next generation is also the right thing to do (there still are millennials who are looking for big houses to settle into). Making new houses is not only difficult given that the building process and approvals take time but is futile and a waste of resources when there are already so many houses that exist!
But then of course, this is entirely a personal decision and a big one. You have to figure out what works best for you and more importantly you have to figure out which option would make you feel most happy – that is the single most important factor!