Moving out of your house—the place you lived for decades, raised a family, and created many memories—to downsize to assisted living can be a bittersweet process. But while it does require some adjustment on the frontend, there is no reason your new senior living apartment can’t have all the comforts of home and reflect your personal taste. What’s more, the new space can also hold opportunities for a fresh start.
As you grow older, it can be difficult to maintain the square footage of an entire house, which makes the smaller, contained space of a senior living apartment more convenient and manageable. It’s also a blank canvas of empty walls and rooms that you can transform into a fresh, colorful, warm, and inviting home. So, as you prepare to leave one home and adapt to another, the below ideas can help to smooth the transition and make the new surroundings feel like your own.
Be Selective About Which Items to Bring with You
It’s normal to feel an attachment to the furniture, decorations, and knick-knacks you collected over the years, but it’s not practical to transfer all of these items to a downsized space. Be honest with yourself about which possessions you will continue to use, which hold the most sentimental value, and which you need to part with.
For instance, how often will you reach for those older puzzles when your assisted living community offers daily activities? Or will you really need all the contents of your kitchen when you have access to chef-prepared dining options?
To help decide, make a list or put everything into one room before you pack up. Include all the important items you’d like to take like antique family heirlooms, keepsakes from your children, or things you use daily. Once everything is in one space (or on one list), it can help you visualize how many things you want to bring with you and if it’s realistic that you can fit it all in your new senior living apartment. At that time, you might consider storage or taking a second go-through of things to donate or pass on to loved ones.
In addition, here’s a list of essentials to help you move into your senior living apartment:
- Furnishings: Check with your assisted living community if they provide any furniture, then keep/bring what you need beyond that
- Linens: Blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, and a shower curtain (note: your community may include linen services)
- Clothing: Just enough clothes, shoes, pajamas, and outerwear to be comfortable
- Electronics: Digital entertainment devices like a small television, computer, or DVD player
- Personal items: Toiletries, hygiene and care items, and a few cleaning supplies
- Keepsakes: Meaningful photos, artwork, and other mementos to create familiarity
Find Resourceful Ways to Maximize Your Storage
While the goal is to divest yourself of as much clutter and miscellaneous items as you can before the move, it’s still necessary to create storage areas in your new home. Because the floorplans of senior living apartments are compact to aid with mobility, you might have less storage than before. However, you can creatively and resourcefully use storage solutions that allow you to have items you’d like, without clutter in your new space.
The organization ideas below can help you make the most of limited space, so items aren’t piled on the countertops, strewn on the closet floor, or stacked against the bedroom walls:
- Use the vertical space in your closet to install multiple rows of shelves.
- Attach a shoe organizer to the back of the closet door to keep the floor clear.
- Stash crates, baskets, and containers under the bed or in bathroom cabinets.
- Mount hooks on vacant walls in the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.
- Find decorative boxes, portable carts or racks, and even small furniture items such as ottomans that you can repurpose into storage areas
Use Colors, Photos, and Mirrors to Open the Space
White drywall, neutral carpets, and metal fixtures offer a fresh slate to start decorating your home. Colors, patterns, textures, and décor can make the space come alive. Inject your own design personality into each room of your senior living apartment.
For instance, if you like vibrant aesthetics, you can add bold orange throw pillows on the couch or drape a chevron blanket over your bed. To make it feel like home, hang framed photos of the family, inspirational quotes, or artwork from your grandkids. Decorative mirrors can also make your space feel larger.
When deciding on a new design path, consider the concept of color therapy. Splashes of color can have certain therapeutic effects, explains Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH, and founder of Thrive for Life Online Counseling. Gaylen lists the effects that different colors can have:
- Green for balance, strength, love, hope, joy
- Blue for peace, relaxation, creativity, wisdom
- Yellow for energy, happiness, action, intelligence
- Orange for abundance, pleasure, well-being
- Red for physical healing, stimulation, vitality
- Purple for beauty, calm, bliss, spiritual connection
Make the Extra Corners Both Cozy and Functional
When you downsize from a long-time house into a senior living apartment, it can take a while to get used to the modest square footage. However, you might find there are several hidden niches, corners, and alcoves that can be turned into cozy spots or functional areas for storage.
For example, if you have a built-in unit of shelves in the kitchen, arrange a few plants and succulents on it for both a natural air purifier and a striking visual piece. Is there an angled wall in the bedroom? Place a small desk and chair underneath it to create an office space. Designate a corner of your bedroom or living room as a reading nook. Simply position a cozy chair, a small table for drinks, and a great lamp together. The more space you utilize, the more open and livable your new home will be. Check out the HomedIt blog for more clever inspiration for using all these nooks and crannies.
Make Your Senior Living Apartment Your Own
No matter how you choose to decorate your new senior living apartment, invest the time and energy to make it comfortable and soothing—a retreat that welcomes you to come in, relax, and feel safe. When you create the kind of space you love, this transition will not be such an overwhelming experience.
At Vineyard Bluffton, we also offer the opportunity to furnish your new senior living apartment. If you or your loved one wants to start fresh and sell their home furnished, or simply sell or donate their older furniture, this is a fabulous option. We also work with local decorators, professional movers, and downsizers that you can hire to assist you on this exciting journey!