Many reasons for seniors to downsize their homes

NIAGARA, Wis. — Home ownership has long been a part of the American dream and an indicator that one has become a responsible adult putting down roots, ready to raise a family and be a productive member of a community. Studies have been done that show the advantages to children who have been raised in a home that is owned by their family. Traditions develop within a home that bind its inhabitants to a shared time and place; a location that continues to hold them together by providing a gathering place to which they return each year. It is no wonder, then, that the idea of selling the family home and downsizing can be such a difficult one for so many seniors.

My husband and I moved to our home in Niagara in 1978 when our two boys were six and two years old. We decided to put down roots when our oldest son asked us where his home town was, and we couldn’t tell him; we had moved six times in seven years during those early days of marriage. It was time to settle in one place and make the best of it. Our parents had given us that much. My husband knew only one home growing up in Menasha, and although I had lived in many houses as a kid, my mother had raised us close to her family farm in Ripon. We knew the sense of security that comes with having a “hometown.”

We were one of the many young families moving into the neighborhood at the time. Our boys quickly joined the neighborhood gang of kids who climbed the trees, built tree houses, rode their big wheels down the block, and stayed outside in the summer time playing kick the can until the sun went down. There were kids everywhere, and at any given time there were a dozen playing in our yard. We knew them and their parents and knew where they lived. When it was time for supper, a shout out the back door brought our boys home from the neighbors’ basketball hoop.

We had moved into this neighborhood at the time it was “turning over” as neighborhoods tend to do about every 30 years. So many of our neighbors were seniors at the time. They welcomed us and embraced our children. Our sons still remember their names and how one neighbor lady gave “her kids” the big candy bars during trick-or-treat and another stood on her front lawn on the first day of school every year and gave each of the neighborhood kids a big hug as they all walked down the hill to begin a new year of learning.

Now, the neighborhood has turned over again, and we have become the seniors on the block. Our memories run deep and have attached us to this location at this point in our lives. From the day we moved into our home when our two-year-old took advantage of our busyness to take off on his little green plastic worm with its yellow wheels. The police found him at the bottom of our hill on a very busy corner across from what was then LeQuia’s grocery store. They loaded him into the police car — worm and all — and cruised the neighborhood stopping when they saw the U-Haul belonging to the “new people” in town. To the evening when that same son, now driving, came home with his friend holding the rope through the window that held up the rear bumper of my old Chevy to keep it from dragging on the road. I found out the rest of that story about 10 years later. I could write a book cataloguing all of my memories that together tell the story of a lifetime in this house. I look out the living room window, and the colors of Niagara’s bluffs across the river tell me the seasons, each one a page filled with stories of our family’s history.

So, for now, I know that I am not yet ready to downsize and relocate to a smaller home. But there are very logical and rational signs that relocating to something smaller makes good sense. The following guidelines may help you make a decision concerning your own home.

1. Your mortgage, insurance, and property taxes exceed 30 percent of your monthly income. Overspending on housing prevents you from being able to save as much as you should giving you limited options when unplanned expenses arise. Your budget at the time you initially bought your house could support that purchase, but income changes as we age. Many seniors’ incomes drop upon retirement as the cost of living continues to rise. While we could afford that large home while we were employed, it may no longer be feasible given our current budget. Consider getting out from under the cost of that house before it ruins you financially.

2. Maintenance and repair costs are climbing. Both homes and the people who live in them keep aging. Homes need regular attention to maintain both their comfort and their value. When you first bought your home, you were most likely young and strong and able to make the repairs and do the maintenance yourself. Now that you are older, you may find that you are paying someone to do the work you used to be able to handle. The average homeowner spends between 1 percent and 4 percent of their property’s value on annual upkeep. Review your bank and credit card statements to determine how much it is now costing you to maintain your home. If it exceeds the 4 percent limit, seriously consider making a change to a smaller, less costly home.

3. Your housing costs leave no room for savings. Maybe your housing costs do not exceed the 30 percent of your income and your home is not particularly expensive to maintain, but you find that you still are unable to save what you need to be protected from the unexpected. Downsizing to a less expensive housing option may give you the margin you need to increase your nest egg.

4. Your budget is simply too tight to enjoy life in retirement. You may be covering your housing costs and managing to save for the unexpected, but it has taken a toll on your recreation budget. Now that you are retired, you have a lot of extra time — time that you have looked forward to for years. You want to travel, pursue hobbies, or just eat out more often. This all takes money, and it may be money you do not have if it is tied up in housing costs. Downsizing to a less expensive housing option may give your budget the leeway you need to fully enjoy your retirement.

5. You are no longer using all that space. One final point of consideration in the downsizing debate is whether or not you really need all the space you currently have. Adult children have left home and all indications point to a slim likelihood that they will return to live with you. Do you need three or four bedrooms and two and one-half bathrooms with storage closets enough for two families? Do you need the two and one-half stall garage? Do you want to continue to care for a yard that stretches as far as the eye can see if your kids are no longer home to mow the lawn – or to play in it? Memories of a family home are, indeed, cherished ones, but it may be time to switch your focus to building new memories in a smaller space.

There are certain situations that do not allow relocation. The housing market in the community in which you live plays a huge role in your ability to be mobile in retirement. The loss of a major industry, for example, may prevent you from selling your current home. My husband and I decided a long time ago that we would stay in our home until we had to consider assisted living. We planned ahead and have made necessary adjustments to our current house to make this decision more feasible. There are many things that can be done to allow you to safely remain in your present home.

1. If your home is not currently on a single level, consider any remodeling that can be done to make it happen. We were able to add a 650 square foot addition off the back of our home, which houses a master bedroom and bathroom. It also allowed us to bring the washer and dryer up from the basement. Now all of our needs can be met without having to climb stairs daily.

2. As we age, mobility issues arise. Areas that are of greatest concern, in addition to stairs, are the bathroom and the walkways around your home. Plan ahead and be ready to install grab bars, a higher toilet and other assistive devices in the bathroom. Keep sidewalks and driveways maintained so they do not deteriorate with the passing years. Doing these projects over time will spread out the costs.

3. Simplify your surroundings. Have you noticed that things become harder to find as we age? This does not mean we are developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. But it may be a sign that we have simply accumulated too much “stuff.” In the very early stages of retirement — or even before you retire — make it a priority to de-clutter. Prioritize your belongings, and keep only what is most important and only what you regularly use.

Retirement can be everything we had hoped it would be if we are properly prepared. The appropriate housing for our circumstances is a big part of our future safety and comfort. Choosing the right option — whether it is downsizing to a smaller home or preparing our existing one for our new needs — is critical. Plan ahead when you have the most options so you are able to make the best choices.






Scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m Sunday through Saturday.

Sunday: Uno, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; resident council, 11 a.m.; library cart, 1:30; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Craft, 10:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1:15 p.m.; Kentucky Derby, 2 p.m.; evening visitor, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 10:30 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 3 p.m.; afternoon van ride, 4 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy,11 a.m.; bible study, 1:30 p.m.; pokereno, 3 p.m.; laundry day, 4 p.m.; dinner theater, 5 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking, 11 a.m.; bunko, 1:15 a.m.; sing along, 2:30 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; spinning records, 1 pm; bingo, 2 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Room visits: 9 to 11 a.m. Sundays and 1 p.m., Monday and Friday.

Exercise: 11 a.m., Monday and Friday.

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30 to 11 a.m.; trivia teasers, 10 a.m.; matinee with popcorn, 1:30 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Cooking, 9 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; DT luncheon, noon; bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Book club, 10 a.m.; Mass, 10 a.m.; mystery ride, 1 p.m..; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; current events, 2 p.m.; action movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee social/animal kingdom, 10 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; senior bball, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m..; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; Presbyterian church, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; monthly birthday party, 2 p.m.; crime movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Word game/puzzle time, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.



Wet your whistle, 9:30 a.m. daily.

Exercise, 10 a.m. daily.

Movie, 10:45 a.m. daily, and 3:15 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday.

Popcorn Day, every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes, 10:15; company’s coming room visits, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know, 10:15 a.m.; Marian Linder music, 2 p.m.; po-ke-no, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Trivia,10:15 a.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Remembering when, 10:15 a.m.; Paula D. music, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; crafts, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: Trivia, 10:15 a.m.; Kiwanis Kids in Action, 1:45 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; derby day, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.; Christian fellowship, 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Spelling bee, 10:15 a.m.; nickel jokereno, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: You be the judge, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno, 2 p.m.; chaplet of divine mercy, 3 p.m.; concert: Just the Two of Us, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass/Stations of the Cross, 9 a.m.; Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; help your neighbor, 2 p.m.; whammo, 6:15 p.m.

Friday: Ball toss, 10:15 a.m.; short stories, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour with Jim D., 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; bingo, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Craft class, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m. 

Thursday: Communion with Deacon Don, 10 a.m.; left-center-right, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily.

Beauty shop open on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; music with Grace and Dave, 2 p.m.; reading, 6 p.m.

Monday: Bingo with Bette, 10 a.m.; pecan party, 2 p.m.; room visits, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Pastor Doug, 10 a.m.; one to one visits, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Bowling, 10 a.m.; monthly birthday party, 2 p.m.; music with Crystal, 3:30 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10 a.m.; alphabet dice, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; movie time, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical

Care Facility


Busy Bee, 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sunday: Grace church, 10:15 a.m.; trivia, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service 2 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Life connections, 9:45 a.m.; sensory, 10 a.m.; song service, 1:30 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; sensory, 3:30 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Life stories, 10:30 a.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.; room visits, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Casino outing, 10:15 a.m.; cards, 10:30 a.m.; wine and cheese, 2 p.m.; trivia, 3:30 p.m.

Thursday: Exercise, 10:30 a.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; Jerry Beauchamp, 2 p.m.; current events, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Coffee clutch, 10:15 a.m.; hangman, 10:30; social circle, 2 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.


Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. If you have meals delivered and will not be home, notify the Center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center


Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Breen Center


Meals Monday through Friday.

Pasty sale every third Saturday of the month — except on holidays.   

Cards and games available 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. 

Hostess on duty Monday through Friday.    

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Center retail store is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers and donations are welcome.

Birthdays acknowledged every day.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m. Donations are $4 for those 60 and older and $5 for 60 and younger.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Monday: Soup, salad, meatloaf, baked potatoes, vegetables, and homemade dessert.

Tuesday: Soup, salad, liver and onions, mashed potatoes, gravy, and homemade dessert.

Wednesday: Soup, salad, Rueben sandwiches, oven fries, and homemade dessert.

Crystal Lake Center


The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; Mahjong in dining hall, noon; Les Artistes Art Club, noon; Bridge Club, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.

Thursdays: Two-person team cribbage from 12:30 to 3:30 pm.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Billiards, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., crafters, scrapbookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Friday: Smear, 12:30 p.m.

Last Saturday of the month: Music jam starting at 1 p.m. Admission is free. 

Dances take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Admission is $6; coffee is free. 

The Photo Club meets 1 to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.  

The kitchen is currently closed due to plumbing issues, and meals are being served at the Breen Center. Christine McMahon has information for all meals and can be reached at 906-774-2256, ext. 235. For transportation, call Buzzin’ Around Town at 906-282-0492. Rides are $3 for age 60 and older, and $3.50 for younger than 60. 

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Felch Center


Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Residents younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations needed 48-hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.   

Fence Center/Town Hall


Meal at noon Wednesdays only. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall


Home-delivered meals are available as always. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at the center on Friday only. 

The meal site is temporarily closed Monday through Thursday due to a staffing shortage. 

Tipler Town Hall


Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora


Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Transportation arrangements can be made to and from the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60. Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50-50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Enjoy friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center


Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60. Thursday meal, 3:30 p.m. soup, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner at 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Home-delivered meals are available — call 906-774-2256 and speak to Christine Tramontine at ext. 235 or Stephen at ext. 230. Menu for the week of March 25 follows:

Monday: Tuna-noodle casserole, mixed vegetables, fruit and milk.

Tuesday: Chili, corn bread, fruit and milk.

Wednesday: Philly steak sandwich, chips, coleslaw, fruit and milk.

Thursday: Parmesan chicken, noodles, cauliflower, dessert and milk.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday. Transportation is available to the meal site for those living in the Niagara, Wis., area. We welcome any senior groups who would like to use the meal site as a meeting place — join us for lunch and then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Other activities are in the works — suggestions are always welcome. 

Those who have not been at the meal site/senior center are invited to give it a try. Those who haven’t been here in a while are encouraged to come back.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining


Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month on Tuesday, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad bar, fruit, juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Breakfast bake with hash browns and sausage, fruit, orange juice, muffin, soup and salad bar, fruit.

Wednesday: Liver or burger and onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli, salad bar, fruit, juice, dessert.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs over egg noodles, squash, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice and dessert.

If Norway-Vulcan area schools are closed due to bad weather days, so is the senior center. If the schools are on a two-hour delay, the center remains open.   

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Puzzles always in the works.

A senior coloring class meets daily. All are welcome. Some materials will be provided.

Telephone reassurance is available for any senior who doesn’t get out much and would like a friendly daily phone check to see that all is well.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center


Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m. Cards: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months. A puzzle table is available to enjoy. Volunteers are always welcome. 


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