What happens when the kids are grown, you have reached the age of retirement and the house becomes too big? Through the years you have accumulated lots of “stuff” thinking someday your kids or grandkids will need it. Maybe it is time to downsize and possibly move to a smaller place. The thought of no yard work, no upkeep on the house, and being able to travel and not worry about what is happening at home are all factors in the decision to downsize.  

        The hard part of downsizing is where to begin.  So many of our belongings have not only monetary value but more likely have sentimental value. The reality of throwing something away that has sentimental value can be extremely stressful. But hanging onto a place that is too big to care for or items that no longer are useful can be harmful too. During my years doing admissions at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community I have visited people at their home where more than 50% of their stuff was being held for others. It can become a health hazard when too much “stuff” is kept. Downsizing although difficult can be a healthy way to deal with the retirement years.

      If you have decided the time has come to downsize it is important to look at your options. Whether you are looking to move or stay where you are, ridding yourself of unneeded or unnecessary things can be a healthy and a way to simplify your life. If you plan to move to a smaller place you need to ask some important questions.  Do you want to rent or own the next place you live in? Do you want a house or an apartment?  Looking at the retirement communities is a good place to start planning to downsize. Retirement communities offer apartments or houses with many opportunities for entertainment, food, friendship and security.

      I asked a few residents of Sierra View Homes Retirement Community how difficult it was for them to downsize and how did they do it? Caroll and Jerry Strader said they downsized several times before they came to Sierra View. They had a few things they decided they must keep and then they called their children and grandchildren to come and take what they wanted. They had a yard sale and the rest they gave to the Salavation Army. Their hope was to help someone else with their donation. Caroll and Jerry moved and downsized three times before they came to Sierra View.

      Agnes Jantz arrived at Sierra View with many of her house hold belongings. She worked with her family to see what pieces worked in her apartment and what did not. She suggests making a list of what you want to accomplish and check off as you accomplish the items on the list. Agnes decided to rent a storage space and has decided to slowly let go of items that she does not need or do not fit.  “Giving items away can be a very freeing experience when you let go of the attachment you have to it” she states.

     The experts suggest you assess your actual needs as you plan to downsize. What furniture do you actually use all the time? Look at your daily life and prioritize the activities and items that are part of your lifestyle. Walk through your house and evaluate everything you see. Go through each room and identify the things you must take with you. Ask the question about each item on your list “have I used the item in the past year or how important is this item to me?” Think about, where your items came from and who gave you that something special? Consider all the things you have hung on to for reading or doing at a later date. You might want to put some things in storage and then check back in 6 months to re-evaluate the items. If you do not need or use them within 6 months it might be time to give, sell or throw them away.

      If you are moving to a smaller place, measure your furniture to see how or if it will fit. Also, get the room measurements and floor plans to know the shape and size of the rooms establish where the windows and doors are. Plan out where you will put the furniture you plan to take. The furniture that does not fit in the new smaller place will need to be given way or sold. You have the opportunity to give items to family and friends. Or you may want to sell items to raise extra money.

      Research suggests that you move your largest pieces of furniture into your new place first. Then work on the smaller items. Assess walking spaces and the availability of doorways. It is important there are no tripping hazards.

      Parting with long kept belongings presents a significant change that can be both physically and emotionally draining. It can be especially difficult if you are older.  Downsizing may mean you are moving from the beloved family home or from a home that has many memories from years of living there.  Look for support from family and friends. Allow yourself to grieve over the changes that are being made but also look to the future. Downsizing can give you freedom to do more activities you find interesting. It can give you opportunity to share important memories with your family.  Downsizing to a retirement community can offer friendships, possibilities for nutritious meals, exercise opportunities and the freedom to live your retirement years with fewer worries.


Sierra View Terraces Grand Opening

Sierra View Homes Retirement Community in Reedley held the grand opening for its new 52 unit apartment building, the Sierra View Terraces, on February 23, 2012. The new one and two bedroom senior apartments in the Sierra View Terraces feature energy efficient construction, emergency alert systems, handicap accessible bathrooms, private balconies, and kitchens with modern appliances and granite countertops. This project was the completion of a 13.2 million bond issue that was issued at the end of 2009 through the State of California Mortgage Program.

The grand opening ceremony celebrated the ways in which the addition of the Sierra View Terraces will serve Reedley and the broader Central Valley community. Judith Case from the County Board of Supervisors presented Sierra View with a certificate of achievement. Shannon Major from the office of Senator Tom Berryhill presented Sierra View with a certificate of recognition to commemorate and celebrate the occasion. Speakers at the ceremony included Reedley Mayor Mary Fast, City Manager Nicole Zieba, and Sierra View Homes Board Chair Irvin Isaak. Speakers highlighted the fact that numerous Central Valley businesses benefitted from the construction of the building. Pickett and Sons of Fresno was the construction contractor, Kimberly’s of Kingsburg did the flooring, and all of the furniture was purchased in local stores.

Thirteen residents or couples have already made the Sierra View Terraces their home. Residents are arriving from Selma and Fresno and as far away as Chula Vista. Once the 52 Sierra View Terrace apartments are rented, Sierra View will swell to a community providing care and housing for 280 people.

The new three story apartment building fulfills a major part of Sierra View Homes’ strategic plan to add to the senior living options available on its 13 acre campus. Founded in 1960 by the First Mennonite Church of Reedley, Sierra View Homes has grown from a 26 bed skilled nursing facility to a retirement community with four levels of care. The Sierra View Terrace apartments join a campus composed of 65 other independent living apartments, an assisted living facility, a 59 bed skilled nursing facility, and a new memory care center that opened in August. While the campus of Sierra View Homes has changed over the past 50 years, staff members were quick to note that Sierra View’s core values of friendliness, hospitality, and hope remained central to the vision of the community. Vito Genna, Executive Director of Sierra View Homes remarked, “The founding fathers’ spirit of humility, compassion and hopefulness that has defined Sierra View Homes for over 50 years remains essential and it always will.”


Retirement Communities and Eating Habits

Could moving to a retirement community improve my eating habits and help me eat a healthier diet?   
– D. Mc. of Reedley, California

Yes! Living in a retirement community does encourage better eating habits. Very often, socialization during meals results in an increase in appetite.

Having a healthy diet with proper nutrition has benefits, such as increased mental ability, better mood stability, a strong immune system, more energy and faster recuperation times.

As we age there are factors that cause our eating habits to change, such as the loss of a spouse, a limited budget, metabolism starts to slow down around age 40. Activity levels change due to medical or physical problems. Our sense of taste and smell diminish and various factors can cause appetite changes, such as medication, depression, or an acute or chronic medical condition.

In the aging process we need to continue to exercise.  Statistics show weight more than age determines how much energy we have.  Eating food with fiber keeps the digestive system working well. Taking calcium walking and getting 15 minutes of sunlight daily, helps keep bones strong. Drinking plenty of water promotes regularity, helps our joints, keeps us feeling energetic and much more.  Avoiding foods with high sugar content is important; sugar can suppress the immune system, weaken eye sight, and contribute to obesity, diabetes and other chronic health issues.

Retirement living facilities offer help with maintaining good eating habits. Some independent living facilities have meal plans that can be purchased by the people who live there. There are facilities that offer one meal a day; others offer 2 or more. Some have the meal plan built right into the rental price. There are also assisted living and skilled facilities that serve 3 meals a day.

It should be noted that retirement communities create menu cycles based on the direction of a registered dietitian. For example, SVH has John Varin, RD who verifies diets for proper nutrient content and gives direction to the kitchen supervisor in coordinating food preparation and modified diets. . Retirement communities offer nourishing meals and the socialization encourages better nutrition by continuing to wet the resident’s appetite.

If living in a retirement facility is not an option then try having a potluck frequently with friends. Go to the community center either in Dinuba or Reedley for a noon meal M-F.

Both programs are serving meals very reasonably priced and offer other activities with possibilities to meet new friends and have things to do.

The life span for the average American is increasing. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help us live those extra years with energy, and enjoyment.

This article was co-written with John Varin, R.D. He is the consultant dietician for Sierra Kings Hospital and a number of long term care facilities in the Reedley area.