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Twilight transition

Seniors get help downsizing their living arrangements

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Margy Campbell sees it coming.

The "graying of America" is like a wave out on the horizon, building and gathering momentum. It won't be long before it breaks, and Campbell, owner of Utah's first geriatric care management company, has stepped forward to meet it.

This year, Campbell and three colleagues formed Easy Transitions, Utah's first "one-stop" resource for people looking to downsize during their twilight years.

Campbell says downsizing is the process of moving from a house to a smaller space such as a condo or independent/assisted living community. It includes assessing and liquidating the contents of the house and preparing it for sale, as well as making other living arrangements.

The Easy Transitions team includes several specialists:

Campbell, owner of Age Connections and a partner in Guardian & Conservator Services, provides geriatric care management and consulting services.

Estate liquidator Patrick Hafner of A-1 Estate Services examines the contents of a client's home, determines the value of various items and heirlooms and arranges for the estate sale.

Home repair specialist Tony Nelson of Spectrum Home Services makes any needed repairs or upgrades to make the home as marketable as possible.

Sherrill Wood of Wood Signature Properties handles the sale of the home.

"Patrick, Sherrill, Tony and I have worked together on several client situations for two years now," Campbell said. "Earlier this year, we just decided to spring into a professional alliance that would help people see that they don't have to do it alone — they can come to us, and we can take care of them, from A to Z."

Many clients — or their adult children or legal guardians — have come to Campbell overwhelmed with the prospect of going through a lifetime of possessions, arranging for home repairs, making other living arrangements and liquidating assets. Easy Transitions was formed to make the process as convenient, professional and seamless as possible — without gouging a person's dignity or pocketbook.

"Where someone has lived in a home for 40 or 60 years, there's a lot of emotions when it comes time to downsize," Campbell said. "Not just for the person who has lived there, but for the children as well. We respect that, and we have a genuine concern, an interest in not only providing a service but in preserving dignity."

Wood said she charges the usual 6 percent Realtor's fee to sell a home. But she also typically goes through the home and identifies repairs that need to be made or work that needs to be done in order to enhance its marketability. If the client needs the funds quickly, Wood said she works to expedite the sale.

Hafner, the estate specialist, clears out the items in the house. But he also prepares the items and conducts the estate sale. While it may be more expensive than hauling everything to the Salvation Army or holding a weekend yard sale, Hafner said employing a professional can have its benefits.

"I've seen so many people get burned," he said. "A lot of people just don't know enough about the valuation of personal property."

An ex-antique dealer and 20-year estate veteran, Hafner has more stories than he can tell of people who regret not knowing the "valuation of personal property."

"I came across a signed Picasso lithograph, which had sold for a dollar here in Salt Lake," he said. "It was bought from family members, who sold it at a yard sale. They said it had hung in the bathroom for years, and they thought it was awful. Some guy said he liked the frame, so they sold it to him for a dollar. Later on, it went to auction and was sold for $25,000 in California."

In Central City last year, Hafner went to a yard sale where an antique arts and crafts lamp, worth about $35,000, was sold for $5 by unsuspecting family members.

Kent Alderman, an elder law attorney who sits with Campbell on the Needs of the Elderly Committee for the Utah State Bar, said Easy Transitions is on the leading edge, providing a service in a field where demand is set to skyrocket.

"There are so many people who are starting into this process of downsizing," he said. "With the baby boomer generation coming through pretty quickly, there will be a lot of families dealing with it. Easy Transitions simplifies the whole process."

E-MAIL: jnii@desnews.com