How To Help an Older Adult Decide Which Possessions They Should Keep During a Relocation

One of the most difficult challenges faced by older people relocating to a more supportive environment is the loss of cherished possessions. They may make decisions about what to keep and what to leave behind that seem odd or silly to others, but keep in mind that the value of possessions may be mostly in the memories they are associated with, the connections to people, places or events that have meaning for the older person. It may not be the object itself that is important. Some things to consider:

  • Give the person time to reflect on each possession and talk about what it means and how important it is.

  • Don’t pressure them into making the decisions others think are reasonable.

  • Help them think about who they would like to have the possession such as a family member or friend who might share the connection or at least appreciate its importance.

  • Help them arrange for a time to hand off possessions and pass on its importance to the new owner.

  • Don’t object if they wish to take more than you think is reasonable. Often people are more willing to give away possessions once they relocate. This can be done slowly and deliberately.

  • Whatever you do, don’t give away or throw away possessions to save them the stress of doing it themselves. This results in a strong feeling of losing control, often deprives them of passing on cherished items to people they trust and care about (gift giving like this can be very rewarding and minimize the sense of loss)

This takes time. Don’t rush it, whether it is done before or after the move.