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Service helps seniors downsize

BY CATHY JETT

Armed with trash bags, colored stickers and a notepad, Smooth Transitions owner Kim Moulds began the daunting task of helping Marilyn Marks clear out her overstuffed loft.

They found stacks of old craft magazines, scraps of fabric left over from various projects, several dolls the 74-year-old Spotsylvania County woman had made clothing for—even a napkin that an old flame had written a note to her on when she was decades younger.

“People used to say, ‘If you need something, ask Marilyn.’ I’d always have it,” Marks said as she looked through yet another box filled with craft supplies.

The avid crafter and former teacher fell and hurt her back last October. Now she’s preparing to sell her home of 20 years in Summerlake, a gated community for seniors, and move into a small apartment in Eugene, Ore., to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. She hired Moulds, a licensed senior move manager and owner of Smooth Transitions of Fredericksburg, to help.

Last Wednesday Moulds pulled out stack after stack of items and asked Marks to decide what to keep, what to sell and what to donate. Each got a color-coded sticker and was stuffed into the appropriate trash bag. After about an hour, they’d cleaned out a third of the loft. Moulds boxed the things designated to be donated or sold and hauled them to her car.

“I cannot do this by myself,” said Marks as she looked around the loft and saw how much they’d accomplished and how much remained to do.

Her daughter had offered to fly out and help, but she leads a busy life. Marks decided to get the ball rolling herself after a friend gave her a gift certificate to Smooth Transitions that she’d won but didn’t need.

“Little did I know how it would change my life,” said Marks. “My daughter has told me several times that she’s coming. One day she’ll show up, and I’ll say, ‘It’s done.’”

Like Marks, many seniors are turning to businesses such as Smooth Transitions to help them sort through a lifetime of belongings and move into a smaller home. Their children are usually busy with the demands of a career and family, and often live in another state.

“Adult children are much more willing to pool their money to hire a senior move manager than to hop on a plane to help their parents move,” said Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM). “It’s not the way they’re choosing to spend their time.”

By letting professionals help their parents decide what they can and can’t take to their new place, they don’t have to play the heavy, she said. And they can do things like take their parents out to dinner to help reduce the stress of moving.

“ It’s just a more positive environment for the whole family,” Buysse said.

Demand for senior move managers is expected to continue rising as people in the baby boom generation hit retirement age over the next 20 years. About 10,000 are turning 65 every day, said Moulds, who is a NASMM member.

Senior move managers—there are about 750 in NASMM alone—provide a variety of services from helping clients decide what to keep and what to sell or give away to scheduling and overseeing moves to unpacking and arranging belongings in their new space.

“We get to hold their hand and listen to their stories as well as help them get rid of things,” said Moulds. “It’s very fulfilling. It can be very emotional for them. It can be hard on the whole family. They want someone to deal with this so they can deal with everything else.”

Like many in her profession, she got her first taste of what the business is like by helping her grandparents downsize from their Marye’s Heights apartment after the complex was purchased by the University of Mary Washington. She also helped her grandmother move twice more after her grandfather died.

“I love old people,” Moulds said. “They have so much to share and offer. Many times they’re a lot of fun.”

She was looking for a meaningful job after her husband, Bill Moulds, recovered from complications from gallbladder surgery. Karen Jones, her best friend and now her business partner, suggested she help seniors who want to downsize.

“She’s the one who said, ‘Kim, you know there are people who get paid for doing this.’ I just thought you did it for family,” Moulds said.

She researched two senior moving companies before taking the plunge. One was a franchise. The other, Smooth Transitions, required a one-time fee to attend training, use its name, be included on its website and get phone consultations and referrals, among other benefits.

Moulds said she went with Smooth Transitions because she didn’t want to be locked into paying royalties. The owner, Barbara Morris, is also one of NASMM’s founders.

Moulds launched her business earlier this year, and helped her first client move from a Del Webb community for active seniors in Stafford County to The Crossings at Falls Run, a senior living community several miles away.

“Every time I tell a Realtor, a financial adviser, lawyer, doctor, health care professional about senior move managers and what we do, I am still amazed at their reactions,” she said.

“There are many ‘Wows’ and ‘What a godsend.’ Every professional has told me that they wish they had known about senior move managers earlier as many of them have clients, patients and loved ones who could have used our services.”

Potential clients can call Moulds at 540/847-2131 or visit smoothtransitionsfredericksburg.com to arrange a free, one-hour consultation.

She charges an hourly fee of $40 for her services, which typically begin with studying a floor plan of her client’s new home. That gives her a clear idea of how much space the client have, where things should go and how much will have to be passed on to family members, donated or sold. She can also manage a move and show movers where things should go.

Eventually, she’d like to have enough business to hire teams to help seniors who are downsizing.

“I see a need,” Moulds said, “and hope to be able to help as many people as possible.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/business/2012/07/20/service-helps-seniors-downsize/