Aging Parents, Material Things and Children Who May Not Want It

Todd Bartimole

As the baby boomers grow older in the US, the volume of unwanted keepsakes and family heirlooms is likely to grow to incredible proportions. Simultaneously, there will be a growing number of delicate conversations between generations as to what to do with all the “stuff!”

According to a 2014 United States census report, more than 20 percent of our population will be aged 65 or older by 2030. As this growth of older adults start downsizing into smaller living spaces, assisted living facilities or retirement homes, they and their families will have to deal with household possessions that family members simply don’t want or need. The competitive accumulation of material goods, a cornerstone of the American dream, dates to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans fled the cities to establish homes and status in the suburbs. Couples married when they were young, and wedding gifts were meant to be used — and treasured — for life. But for a variety of social, cultural, and economic reasons, this is no longer the case.

Need for Self-Storage Rises

estate planning

Increases in self-storage space spending indicate the growth of the problem.  While in 2010 the monthly spending on construction of Self Storage space per month was approximately $25M, the monthly cost ballooned to over $260M per month in 2017. (see graph)

Additionally, the senior move management industry has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years.  These move managers usually charge an hourly rate, spend time with clients, and help them sort through years of accumulated possessions to make decisions about what to dispose, donate to charities or move into their new (smaller) living spaces.

Aging Parents to Consider Passing Down Valuables While They’re Alive

When giving Christmas and Birthday gifts, aging parents may want to consider giving children and grandchildren items like jewelry and more valuable personal possessions while they are still alive, rather than in their estate plan.  Often family members will attach more significance to a gift given personally, and parents get to see and experience the joy of handing down a family heirloom.

Of course with some material goods without significant value, aging parents may be well advised to ask their child if they really want the proposed gift before handing it down.  This could be another way of ensuring the relative who gets the gift is one who will appreciate it and continue passing it down for further generations to enjoy.


Related Posts by attorney Todd Bartimole appear below. Todd has been working as an advocate for the elderly and disabled since 1989 and specializes in Elder LawEstate Planning and Disability and Special Needs Planning.

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