2 IL NASMM Members in the News!

Move managers help seniors downsize into new homes

Martha Little of Des Plaines ask a question to senior move manager Sharon Moffat with Gero Solutions, far right corner, while the company packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Martha Little of Des Plaines ask a question to senior move manager Sharon Moffat with Gero Solutions, far right corner, while the company packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions looks over the items of Martha Little (in white) along with Kevin Coleman of Moore Moving, as she moves into The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions looks over the items of Martha Little (in white) along with Kevin Coleman of Moore Moving, as she moves into The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions, talks with Martha Little as movers from Moore Moving get her settled into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions, talks with Martha Little as movers from Moore Moving get her settled into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Martha Little watches as movers from Moore Movers position her couch into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Martha Little watches as movers from Moore Movers position her couch into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comMartha Little of Des Plaines relaxes while senior move managers with Gero Solutions packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Martha Little of DesPlaines relaxes while senior move managers with Gero Solutions packs items in her apartment in DesPlaines for a move to a retirement community.

Do you want to relocate to a retirement community but are deterred from making the move because you are bogged down by a lifetime of household possessions?

“Generally, people who are moving into a retirement community have been in their house for a very long time and the thought of sorting through not only a houseful of stuff, but a garage and basement full of stuff, too, becomes overwhelming,” said Mary Kay Bochenek, director of marketing at The Moorings in Arlington Heights. “Things become a barrier for an awful lot of people.

“It is like losing weight or exercising. They say they will work on it later and it becomes their excuse for not moving forward. It takes energy to move and make decisions and it is easier to do nothing,” she said.

When you let “things” deter you, you may end up moving into a different lifestyle than you would have chosen if you had gone ahead and moved earlier. Sometimes health problems will change your dreams and necessitate a move, Bochenek cautions.

“In some cases, our new residents have had to deal with clearing out their parents’ things, as well as their children’s things, in addition to their own. They have had houses full of three generations of ‘stuff’ and many young people would rather go out and buy modern stuff from IKEA than take hand-me-downs. So that leaves our potential residents trying to figure what to do with everything,” she said.

That is why The Moorings provides the services of Gero Solutions of Arlington Heights to help residents de-clutter their homes, sort, donate, pack, move and unpack again.

“It is a major release to people to know that they don’t have to do their own sorting, packing and unpacking. That involves lots of physical labor, especially if you don’t have a support system nearby, and many of them don’t have the energy to do it. This service alleviates a lot of stress,” Bochenek said.

Gero Solutions is a division of Lutheran Life Communities and it has been in business since 1999 to serve anyone who is looking to downsize and move, said director Mary Jo Zeller. She is also one of 16 founding members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, a group which now boasts 850 members.

“We handle the details of a move for people who often haven’t moved for 25 to 50 years,” Zeller said. “This is a major life transition for these people and oftentimes they are simultaneously dealing with health problems or the recent death of a partner, so we work to reduce their stress.”

In addition, many people don’t have children in the area who are available to help with the planning, prep work and then the adjustment phase on the other end. So Gero Solutions steps into the void and helps them to “move a lifetime.”

Gero Solutions personnel help the senior see how they will be living in their future home and from that standpoint helps them decide what to bring and what to leave behind.

“We bring a sensitivity to how they are feeling. But we also bring an objective view that children and grandchildren often can’t bring. We don’t have any emotional attachments to the things in the home,” Zeller said.

“Clutter didn’t start as clutter. As we grow and change, our possessions are steppingstones to who we are today. Possessions unchecked can pull you down instead of lift you up,” she counsels. She recommends only keeping things that you really use or that bring you joy and she helps with space planning for the new villa or apartment.

“Eighty percent of the things in the average home are ordinary household goods. Twenty percent are treasures. We suggest that people focus on the treasures and let us help them decide which household goods they will actually use in their new home,” Zeller said.

Zeller tells them not to pay to move stuff, only to have to throw it out when they get to their new home. Duplication and accumulation of “stuff” is what Zeller calls “just-in-case syndrome,” and she works with clients to overcome that common ailment.

“Clients pay us to give them permission to let go of things, in essence,” she explained. “So we break it down into manageable pieces. We tell them to start with the easiest task and move progressively toward the more difficult decisions. Once they have gotten into the mood to get rid of things, it makes it easier to tackle the difficult decisions. We also tell them to go through everything twice. Go through the entire house and then go back to the beginning and start through again. It will amaze you what you can get rid of on that second time through.”

Gero Solutions tells clients to put all of their energy into what they plan to surround themselves with in their new home. Don’t waste a lot of worry on what they are not taking. Just decide whether to throw away, donate, distribute to family or sell each item and then move on.

“We help set up estate sales, arrange shipping of items around the country, schedule charitable pickups, packing, unpacking, you name it.

“It is very rewarding to be involved in people’s lives like this. We give them the moral support and attention they need to adjust to their new life and get on with living. I particularly enjoy helping them to adjust to their new home — learning how set the thermostats, etc.,” Zeller said.

“If moving is a major stressor in people’s lives, why take a year to do it? Condense the process as much as possible, I tell them,” she added.

Gero Solutions, www.gerosolutions.org, (847) 705-2123, handles such moves for a number of area communities including Luther Village in Arlington Heights, Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire, Friendship Village in Schaumburg and Plum Creek Supportive Living in Rolling Meadows.

Gayle Kittridge took advantage of the service at The Moorings, having Gero Solutions measure her furniture to help her decide what to take, pack her things and unpack at the other end.

“They advised me to lay out whatever I thought I wanted to take with me and then cut it in half. That was excellent advice. They couldn’t have been nicer,” Kittridge said.

“For the first time in my life, I have no clutter and it is very pleasant,” the former Mount Prospect resident admitted.

“After Gero Solutions helped me decide what I was going to take, I had a company that was referred by my Realtor help me clean everything out that was left. They got dump trucks to clean out 30 years of accumulation from my attics and garage and I donated other things to Goodwill and also had a four-day estate sale. Then they staged the house to be sold and it went right away,” Kittridge said.

Angie and Wayne Krause had a similar experience when they moved into The Moorings.

“Gero Solutions was very helpful. They walked through our Park Ridge house with us and made suggestions about which pieces of furniture would fit in our new home. They took a lot of the worry out of moving. We knew what we would be able to take and then they came and packed everything up for us and on the other end, they unpacked everything for us and put it all away. They even hung up the towels in our bathroom and made up our beds,” Angie Krause said.

The Garlands in Barrington offers a similar service to their prospective residents. They have an arrangement with Paxem Inc. of Cary, a moving service that prepares the home for sale through decluttering and staging it, planning what to move to The Garlands and packing it, arranging for the move by licensed professionals, doing the final cleaning of the old house and then unpacking belongings and setting everything up in the new Garlands villa or apartment.

These are the highlights, but they can also do much more. It is up to the homeowner to decide how much or how little they want Paxem to do for them and The Garlands helps to pay for it.

“We are very proud of this program. When we tell people about it, we usually see a huge sigh of relief because moving causes lots of stress and pressure on people,” said Dawn Kempf, vice president of sales and marketing. “We try to make things as painless as possible, so the service is customized to the needs of each resident.”

Sometimes it is difficult to know who is more relieved by the service, she added, the senior who is moving or his or her children and grandchildren who would probably have been doing much of the work.

“We act as a ‘general moving contractor’ and assess what each individual needs and supply that,” Kempf said. “And since Paxem uses movers who are familiar with our buildings, the moves go much faster and that saves money.”

The Garlands also provides box lunches for the movers and the family on moving day, to make things that much easier.

Bud and Marguerite Brinker moved to The Garlands from Huntley at the end of 2013 and were very pleased with the moving services provided by Paxem.

“They completely packed up our Huntley home and then unpacked everything in our new home and arranged it pretty well, based on the layout I gave them,” Bud Brinker said.

“We got rid of some things to charities and to our family members, but we didn’t really have them help us with that part of things. But when they packed us, they were very good-spirited and accommodating. And they sure knew what they were doing. After the move, there weren’t even any boxes left behind for us to get rid of. They even unpacked hundreds of books and placed them on the large bookcase I had built,” he said.

Jennifer Prell, president of Paxem, has been helping seniors move for about 10 years.

“Organizing and packing is fun for me, so back in 2003 I decided to start doing something that I am passionate about and have been helping seniors move ever since,” Prell said. “We treat each client as an individual and work to give them a smooth transition to their new home.

“We want them to move into their new home with a clean mind — not one that is in disarray. So we try to make the move as easy for them as possible by being very organized and neutral. With us, there is none of the emotional dynamic that you would get if your family were helping you to move,” she said.

Paxem offers free referrals for anything that a homeowner might need from estate sale specialists, to movers, to a Realtor, to someone who will rip down that old wallpaper and give the walls a fresh coat of paint before it goes on the market.

Prell and her team specialize in helping people cull through years of belongings, advising them to concentrate on the personal items that really mean something to them, like photos. Then they try to duplicate the old home as closely as possible when they draw layouts of how the new home will look.

“Sometimes we find that it is less traumatic to move the person into their new home first and then go back and declutter and clean out what is left behind in the old home. But that isn’t always possible,” she said.

Prell is also a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

Anyone can arrange such a service with Paxem Inc. by calling (847) 829-4437 or logging onto www.paxem.com. However, most people need to pay for the service themselves (unless they are moving to a community that provides moving assistance as a perk).

Source: Jean Murphy, http://www.dailyherald.com, 04/20/2014
Photo credits: George Leclaire & Mark Welsh, Daily Herald


One Friday Morning 04.04.14


One Friday Morning 03.21.14

Love Later Life ad airing in the UK: Fantastic!
“Aging is not an illness…”

One Friday Morning 02.14.14

What Does Love Mean?
See How 4-8 Year-Old Kids Describe Love

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds: “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think…

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”  Rebecca – age 8

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7 

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”
Elaine – age 5

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8

And the final one…
Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 
“NothingFeature Articles, I just helped him cry.”

Source: Ladan Lashkari, dailygood.org, 12/29/2010

One Friday Morning 02.07.14

We usually don’t release a post from NASMM’s Members Only listserv, but we thought the post (below) that came through this week required a more public forum. Plus, it just warms our hearts on this polar vortex kind of day. Check it out:


From: Sharon Cofar
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2014 02:23:30
Subject: The Conference for Me

To My NASMM colleagues,

Only 2 more weeks! The highlight of my year is seeing my SMM “friends” again. It was 10 conferences ago when I got off the plane excited about starting my new business, but apprehensive about the days ahead.  I was attending a conference where I knew no one and knew so little about Senior Move Management that I was intimidated. I had completed training; however, I hadn’t even had a client yet! Would the other attendees talk to me? Would I fit in? I had expected to feel intimated and maybe even lonely.  But the minute I got on the shuttle and met someone traveling to the same hotel for the same conference, the whirlwind started – new friends, new ideas (lots of ideas!), positive feelings, and excitement all around me. I was welcomed into the fold, and never felt lonely or that I had made a bad decision in my new profession or in attending the conference.

There were only about 35 attendees at my first conference, which was NASMM’s second one. (Now about 400 will be attending).  I had no idea this event would be the beginning of a live long love affair – so deep, so enriching, so challenging, so  many ups and downs (mostly ups, thank goodness), so many achievements, so many happy clients, and so many new friends. My bonds with my NASMM sisters and brothers have deepened though the years, and I treasure our times together and our friendship. Though we do not see each other often, and we do not speak that many times over the year, it is always such a wonderful feeling to connect again. We share our triumphs and our disappointments, and we give advice (if asked) and receive guidance (if we ask).

This is my 10th conference.  For those of you who it is your first, you are in for such a treat – such an indescribable few days. Every minute of every day, you will be with people who speak your same language. You will be with people who care about seniors, about their issues, and about your success.  Talk to everyone. This is not the time to be shy. There will be sharing at meal time, in the elevator, at the bar, walking to and from the sessions, in the hot tub (yes, we did that several years when it was warm) and even while going out for late night ice cream. (I am always up for that midnight run.) There will not be enough minutes in the day or night to feel satiated.  At the end of the conference, you will leave overwhelmed, drained, and exhausted, but excited about all the new ideas you want to implement.  Seasoned move mangers will feel renewed, revived, and stimulated.  And everyone will be anxious to get back and take their businesses to a higher level with all the fresh ideas they gleaned from the weekend.  This is the way I always return.

Can’t wait to give my old friends a hug again, and I also look forward to making new relationships with people I will hug at the next 10 conferences!  Hope to see you in San Diego!       

Best Regards,

Sharon Cofar
A Move Made Easy, Inc.
In our 11th year of service!
Serving Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties in South Florida
Former Board of Directors of NASMM (National Association of Senior Move Managers)
Vice President and Board of Directors of ESRN (Elder Services Resource Network)
Member of the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk committee

One Friday Morning 01.03.14

Happy New Year, everyone! We are reprinting this excellent post from our good friends at The New Old Age blog in The New York Times. It describes the recent move (and downsizing) of the blog’s founder, Jane Gross, from her longtime home to a more aging-in-place-friendly environment.

(Wish Jane had mentioned NASMM’s Senior Move Managers and how they might have helped her, but it’s a thought-provoking piece nonetheless. NASMM and SMMs were featured in the New Old Age blog several times in the past, but the most comprehensive piece was just 3 years ago here.)

We are reprinting Jane’s column from this week regarding her own move due to The New York Times paywall and the inability for many to access it via the paywall.

The New Old Age
The Getting Was Good

Boxes stacked in the author’s new apartment.
January 2, 2014

The very day I turned 66, 177 of you wished me well on a decision to take the advice I’d been giving others: To leave a house I loved as one loves something animate, not merely a construction of clapboard and stone, before the inevitable crisis that would make it too hard to live there and also too hard to leave under my own steam.

My darling house belongs to somebody else now, and a bit more than a month has passed since I bought an apartment that’s nice enough – better than I expected, really, given the price I could afford. With the new year here, the days at their shortest and a couple of snowfalls behind me, the time seems ripe to revisit this move.

Did I do the right thing? You betcha. At the right moment? Sure I did. There are pluses and minuses, upsides and downsides. But I’d still argue that anyone who waits much longer than I did to align her living circumstances to the inexorable march of time is kidding herself. “Anything is possible” and “you never know’’ apply to much of life. But I’ve yet to meet anyone, except on a movie screen (or in a state of denial), who doesn’t get older every day.

Absent a guarantee I’d have died in my sleep while still able to walk up and down the stairs, use a chain saw, shovel snow and drive a car – to name just a few of the realities of suburban homeownership – waiting even a few years longer would have been folly.

What has been taxing now, both physically and emotionally, would have become geometrically harder with each year and impossible, perhaps in an eye blink, with one stroke of bad luck.

So, a tally of the experience, still a work in progress, in predictable and unpredictable ways:

I wish I’d done a better job of culling my possessions, leaving half again as much behind. I’m still living amid towers of boxes (somewhat mitigated by my continued amusement at the moving company’s name – Shleppers).

I wish those boxes weren’t so heavy. (Ditto the furniture, which the movers carefully placed where I wanted it …until I changed my mind). Or that I were stronger. Or that the boxes didn’t have to be broken down, taped into bundles and “shlepped” (ah, ha!) to the basement, along with garbage bags stuffed with the tissue paper enveloping every box of tea bags or can of soup.

I wish I understood the array of recycling bins in the basement, new to New York City since my departure 25 years ago, and commendable for sure. Cans and bottles in clear bags? Paper in dark ones? (Does this kind of new information keep the brain sharp like learning Sanskrit or doing Sudoku puzzles? Because if it does, I can consider my uncomfortable ignorance to be an Alzheimer’s preventive.)

I am baffled, too, by MetroCards; swiping them on the train is a snap, but the bus … not so much. And those Muni Meters for parking – which way does the credit card go in? Can you park there without paying on a holiday?

This last actually required some investigation, and the woman answering my 311 call surely thought me an idiot. She kept repeating it was a parking meter holiday. I was embarrassed to ask if these newfangled things are parking meters. Since selling my car was No. 1 on the “Old Lady Moves” agenda, this was blessedly a short-lived confusion.

I wish the bathroom wasn’t so tiny. I wish the southern light flooding my bedroom instead brightened the living room or office during the shortest days of the year.

I wish I controlled the thermostat, so the apartment isn’t either way too hot or way too cold. I wish I could simply open the door to let the dog out rather than trade my pajamas for a parka at 9 o’clock in the morning to walk him.

The dog, Henry, has made his own adjustments, although he made them more nimbly than I. At 8 years old, he’d always done his business on grass, not pavement, and he looked at me with bafflement the first time I took him out in the city. After two days of sniffing, he’d picked his spots; maybe, 56-year-olds (in dog years) are more open to new experiences than 66-year-olds.

He figured out which doormen took unkindly to mess outside their buildings, even if it was instantly scooped up. He’s especially fond of urinating on a tree ringed with cabbage plants. I wish he wouldn’t, but thought it more important to teach him not to wet the mound of blankets around the corner, which turned out to be a sleeping homeless man. I considered waking him to apologize, but instead yanked the leash hard, growled “no” in my best alpha voice and fled the scene. It hasn’t happened again.

When the confusion of a move was ahead of me, I was jotting every worry on a Post-it, lest I forget. “At what point do I sell the car?” “Where’s the title?” “Dog groomer?” “Veterinarian?” Well, the car is sold, I found a vet and I have a lead on a groomer. Now, after assembling two new 150-watt lamps so heavy that the task was like bench pressing, a chiropractor is at the top of the list. But the appointment will have to wait until the remaining 68 boxes are unpacked.

Also, I need more Band-Aids for the damage caused by fumbled knives while opening those boxes. And another bottle of Traumeel, homeopathic magic for swelling and bruising when the hammer misses the picture-hook nail and hits my hand instead.

Clearly, moving – like every other part of aging – isn’t for sissies. But I have more closet space than I’ve ever had in my life, and golden oak cabinets in the kitchen and bedroom that reach to the ceiling. There are Bosch appliances that I’m way too cheap to have ever bought for myself. Central Park is four blocks to the west, the East River promenade equidistant to the east. Any kind of food is now delivered to my door, my friends are a stroll or subway ride away, movie theaters aren’t in malls, and the superintendent can’t do enough for me.

Then there’s the snow thing. When I woke to gauzy whiteness the other day, to the telltale sound of silence broken by the occasional grumble of plows, I forgot where I was in that hypnagogic moment after sleep. I dreaded the shovel, the rock salt, wet rag socks. Frozen fingertips. Slip-sliding even with four-wheel drive to the A. & P. if I was out of milk.

But no. I live here now. Somebody else shovels. I walk to the corner for milk.

Source: Jane Gross, The New Old Age Blog, The New York Times, January 2, 2014


~ Happy Holidays 2013 ~

Holiday 2013 image