Cari Dyck (left) and Cathy Isles

Cari Dyck (left) and Cathy Isles

Helping to ease the transition

Okanagan Senior Transition Services assists seniors who are downsizing, with everything from packing up dishes to installing the phone

When a senior moves out of the home where they’ve raised their children and lived with their spouse, there is more at stake than simply deciding what to take, what to sell and what to give away.

There is an emotional connection to the family home, to the memories contained in that home, to objects that hold meaning.

Cari Dyck wants to make that transition easier for seniors who are moving into smaller residences or a retirement home.

As the founder of Okanagan Senior Transition Services, Dyck specializes in relocating and downsizing services for seniors.

“This is a loss of independence for people and a loss of who they are, and often the decision making comes at a time of crunch, they lose a lot of their choices, where family members will come in and decide what’s best,” said Dyck, a mother of four who grew up in the Okanagan. “The main thing is to give them control.

“I want to convey to seniors and their families that they are not alone, help is out there and what they are going through with aging, relocation, downsizing, changing of caregiver roles is common. Seniors do not need to be paralyzed by the fear of relocation and my hope is to make it a pleasant and positive experience for the senior and/or any family involved.

“I encourage people to start the process and planning earlier rather than later to help maintain as much independence and choice as possible.”

With a B.Sc. in nursing, Dyck has worked extensively with seniors in both hospital and community settings. She is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers and has completed their training program. She is also a certified move manager and has trained with the Smooth Transitions Group in Kentucky.

“I have always loved working with seniors,” she said. “When I was in Vancouver, I worked on the geriatric ward at Vancouver General and so I started to think about what I could do here, not as a nurse but still working with seniors.”

A senior move manager looks at the whole process of downsizing, from helping a client figure out what to do with that collection of porcelain cow creamers, to setting up the phone service.

“We look at the emotional and the physical aspects,” said Dyck. “And it could be as much or as little as a family might need.

“We look at the timeline of it all, which makes the process less daunting.”

For seniors considering a downsize, it can be difficult to know where to start. Dyck is happy to do a free consultation to determine the services a senior might need.

According to the Stress Scale, for seniors moving to a nursing or retirement home is in the top five of stressful events, preceded only by death of a spouse or divorce.

And often, said Dyck, difficult decisions have to be made quickly.

“Sometimes what happens is a couple has moved here to retire and then one spouse gets sick and they no longer have family members or friends close by.”

Dyck’s services can be personalized to the individual needs and concerns of the clients and can include everything from pre-move preparation to help a senior determine what belongings to take with them, to packing and moving, helping to decorate a new home, unpacking and organizing every box.

“Often we will take photos of their home and try to replicate their living environment. It comes down to they have to move and this is the space we are working from. So many families are scattered across the country so this is very disruptive to have to organize all of this. We can take care of all of the practical things, including something as simple as ensuring the TV is connected.”

As well, Dyck can help seniors who wish to age in place, by doing a safety check of their homes.

“Many people choose that option if they are not ready to move, but they can start thinking towards that.”

There are now more than 800 senior move management companies in the US., Canada and around the world. And Dyck couldn’t be happier to have found her niche in working with seniors.

“I love working with seniors, they are fascinating and you can learn so much just by listening.”

For more information, see the web site at

On the move

According to Statistics Canada, the population of those over 65 has grown to nearly five million in the past five years.

Canada’s 2011 census revealed that near seniors — people 60 to 64 — grew faster than any other group, with their population growing to 29.1 per cent in the past five years. In four years, Canada will be a country with more seniors than children

According to the City of Vernon web site, 23.1 per cent of the population is aged 65 and older, compared with a national average of 14.8 per cent

The National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) is a non-profit professional association of organizations dedicated to assisting older adults and families with the physical and emotional demands of downsizing, relocating or modifying their homes.

Senior move managers can help with the following:

Developing a move or “age in place” plan

Organizing, sorting and downsizing

Customized floor plans

Arranging for profitable disposal of unwanted items through auction, estate sales, buy-out, consignment, donation or combination of the above

Interviewing, scheduling and overseeing movers, arranging shipments and storage, oversight and supervision of professional packing, unpacking and setting up the new home

Related services, such as cleaning, estate removal, shopping, senior escort, assisting with selection of a realtor and helping prepare the home to be sold.