There is no doubt that our communities are aging. More and more seniors are staying in their homes longer, and by the time they decide to move - or most often find they don’t have a choice - they need a lot of help. Now more than ever, REALTORS are looked to for their expert knowledge and guidance for one of the most difficult life events that seniors will experience. The question is: Are you equipped? Consider these thoughts as you find yourself serving an older adult client... 1. As America ages, it is not uncommon for people to live to be centenarians (100 years old or older). So think about that. If they started having children while in their early 20’s, their adult children (assuming they are still living) are now in their 70’s and 80’s. And their grandchildren are possibly in their late 40’s and 50’s. I had a woman who is 83 tell me just the other day, “You know you are old when your youngest daughter calls and tells you she just moved into a retirement community.”
2. Due to our current economy and the need for people to work longer before retiring, the adult children of many seniors who would normally be available to assist mom and dad with a move are now living across the country. This makes them much less available and less flexible in their ability to provide support (emotional, financial, or physical).
3. There are a number of available resources in communities now that assist seniors with aging in place for a much longer period of time. Where people used to consider senior communities while in their 60’s and 70’s, now communities are reporting more and more seniors waiting until they reach their 80’s to make a move. For REALTORS this often means selling homes for clients who have lived in same house for 30 or more years. The accumulation of “stuff” as a result adds additional stress to downsizing seniors as they contemplate a move (not to mention possible deferred maintenance and functional obsolescence of the property).
4. The development of senior living communities across the country is growing at a rapid rate. With more and more options available for older adults outside the traditional residential real estate spectrum, seniors are looking to their REALTORS for guidance in what housing options best suit their needs.
5. Everyone makes two moves when they relocate... a physical move and an emotional move. For most of us, the emotional move is not terribly stressful and we manage to leverage our support systems to muddle through it with little effort.
For seniors, however, this emotional move is not only compounded by the additional physical stress placed on their already frail bodies, but they are dealing with the additional feelings associated with a perceived loss of independence (or actual loss) as well as fear of entering uncharted territory.
We are talking about retired CEO’s, military officers, tenured professors from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, as well as blue collar workers having retiredafter 50 years of service to the same company. They are intelligent and educated... and they are looking to us to help them make sound decisions about their future. These facts alone illustrate the increased need for additional support from experts in the field as older seniors navigate the real estate transaction and especially a downsizing move. They need us to be patient and to walk them through the steps with love and respect. Sometimes all they need is our physical strength to pull a box out of an attic and sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on. But mostly, they need us to be present and prepared...equipped and responsive. It’s not a lot to ask.
What are you doing to equip yourself to better serve seniors?
|Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment.