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Help Seniors Transition to a New Life

Moving from a family home can be traumatic. This business idea helps seniors downsize into a new, smaller living facility.

Even though many seniors want to live in their own homes as long as they can, others need or want to move on to one of the many residential options ahead. That transition is often a daunting one, though, leaving many seniors and their families reeling from the challenges. "There are often difficult family dynamics," says Steven Weisman, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, elder law attorney and author of Boomer or Bust. "Sometimes the children have competing interests. Sometimes they're half a continent away and need someone on location to help meet their parents' needs. This is a chance for entrepreneurs to do well in this area while doing good."

After working as an assisted living administrator, Bryan Neal, 34, saw so many problems with seniors on the move that he started Assisted Moving LLC in Plymouth, Michigan. "There are often 50 years of accumulated possessions in [their] homes," says Neal, whose 3-year-old company projects 2006 sales of $225,000. "Families call and ask if I'll be the villain, because Mom and Dad don't understand why everything can't go into the new place." Neal's company has a systematic downsizing plan complete with software showing the dimensions of the new home. Once the seniors see what will really fit, Assisted Moving helps them decide what to pass on, holds estate sales to sell other items, discards unwanted items and moves what the seniors keep into their new homes.

Getting Started
Before starting your own transition services business, consider the following:

  • Set realistic expectations. "Be prepared to make the adjustment from typical white collar work to hands-on physical work," says Bryan Neal, 34, who left his job as an assisted living facility manager to found Assisted Moving LLC in Plymouth, Michigan, which not only helps seniors make decisions relating to their move, but also moves them. "Assisting seniors with the moving and downsizing is physical work with lots of sorting, packing and heavy lifting."
  • Have an element of compassion. Most older adults who are considering a transition have not moved in decades and will need to shed years of accumulated belongings. For most of these seniors and their families, parting with these belongings and leaving a longtime home is a highly emotional experience and feelings can run high. "Be prepared to act as a director, counselor and friend," Neal says.
  • Do research and networking. The National Association of Senior Move Managers helps members with insurance, business-to-business referrals, consumer referrals, education and more. Members are also able to help each other coordinate transitions for clients moving out of state.
  • Assemble a team. Seniors often need special help from accountants, lawyers, financial planners and other professionals as they make their move, so transition planners would do well to pull together a network of these professionals. "Understand that you"ll be the quarterback," says Steven Weisman, a Cambridge elder law attorney and author of Boomer or Bust. "Line up those other professionals to provide the fullest service."
  • Think beyond the move. Weisman says that months or even years can go by before people get around to unpacking all their boxes. "Change is difficult for anyone, but especially for people later in life," he says. "You want to help them get the new place set up quickly so that it feels like home."
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