Oh, and get the couple’s two homes, car, RV and coin collection ready to sell.
Halfway through, they realized they weren’t gonna make it. “We were trying to do it all ourselves, which was a joke,” LeBlanc recalls. “It was too much to do.”
Their Realtor came through with a solution: A senior move manager.
“It was really a Godsend for us,” LeBlanc says.
In three weeks’ time, Theresa Giddings and her company, Soft Landings for Seniors, helped the couple, Terri and Jim Cameron, settle into their new apartment. She cleared out both homes, held an estate sale and drove unsold items to charities (and the dump).
She also shipped their Toyota Corolla and Jim’s stamp collection to relatives on the East Coast. And she got the coin collection appraised and sold for $9,000.
“I didn’t have to do anything,” Terri Cameron said. “Theresa did everything. She’s a hustler, I tell ya.”
More Baby Boomers and their parents are turning to services such as Giddings’. As America’s population ages and their Baby Boomer kids struggle to balance work and their older parents’ needs, the field of senior move managers is exploding.
Eight years ago, the National Association of Senior Move Managers had 60 members, executive director Mary Kay Buysse said. Today, it has more than 1,000 worldwide. Ten of its 15 Oregon members have joined in the last five years.
“It’s a quickly growing field,” said Jerry Leffel, who started the Caring Transitions senior move management company in Portland in 2012. “Most people don’t know what services are out there because they only look for it once or twice in their life.”
It’s also not well regulated in Oregon and other states, leaving elderly people potentially vulnerable to unscrupulous actors.
The Oregon Department of Transportation regulates moving companies, but not move managers, spokesman Tom Fuller said.
Oregon’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman has received one complaint about a resident charged $700 by a move manager to have his belongings moved 2 floors from an independent living apartment to an assisted living apartment in the same building while he was recuperating in a nursing home, deputy ombudsman Ann Fade said.
The office held the facility responsible because it arranged for the move, Fade said.
But the ombudsman’s office would not get involved with a move from a home to another independent living arrangement, she said.
Buysse’s trade association tries to address consumer protections by requiring members to carry liability insurance, abide by a code of ethics and have complaints reviewed by a committee of peers.
Regardless, move managers have tapped into a need. Seniors age 65 and older make up 12 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050 they’ll make up 19 percent, U.S. Census projections show. The entire United States will look grayer than Florida does today.
Our mobile society might play a role, too. According to a 2010 survey, about one-third of adults 70 and older say they either have no children or live more than 10 miles from their kids, said David Ekerdt, a sociology professor and director of the gerontology center at the University of Kansas.
“It really arose from seeing a need that wasn’t filled,” Buysse said of the industry’s growth.
That’s essentially why Giddings launched her firm this year. Four years ago, she joined relatives in helping her grandmother in Mississippi downsize. Giddings said she gathered all items that could fit in one room, packed and labeled them and took what didn’t fit to charity.
“I loved it,” Giddings said. “They were all looking at me like I was crazy.”
As a career accountant and certified financial planner, Giddings decided few people could fit all the pieces of a move together like she could.
Most senior move managers such as Giddings get paid directly by their clients rather than a care facility or some other entity. The cost ranges widely based on the amount of belongings and other logistical factors. Nationwide, a $2,500 move is about average, Buysse said. Giddings said her minimum is $3,000.
Those fees don’t include the cost of hiring movers, a Realtor or (if necessary) an estate sale firm, though some senior move managers handle estate sales, too. Move managers hire and coordinate those services much as a general contractor would a home building. And unlike movers, senior move managers will unpack boxes afterward and arrange belongings in the new home.
The Camerons moved to Hillsboro more than a decade ago to be close to their only son. Their lives changed drastically when he died unexpectedly last year at age 43.
LeBlanc, their niece, became convinced they needed to move when she learned the Camerons had fallen repeatedly. They’d also inherited their son’s home.
“It was getting to be too much,” Jim conceded recently, “even though I had a riding lawn mower. … We were just getting too old to cut the mustard anymore.”
LeBlanc and her sister managed to organize belongings, sell the couple’s RV and actually get the Camerons from their three-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom studio in Avamere at Hillsboro.
Giddings did the rest. She even put her planning hat on and culled through paperwork to clear up a titling issue on their late son’s home. But selling Jim’s coin collection for $9,000 delighted everyone.
“I didn’t think it was going to get that much,” Jim said.