When Barbara Miller moved recently from La Selva Beach to Boulder Creek, she wasn't about to do it all herself.
A Move Made Simple
WHAT: Senior moving services business.
WHO: Owned by Theresa Tucciarelli.
INFORMATION: Call 539-1000, or visit www.amovemadesimple.com or the National Association of Senior Move Managers at www.nasmm.org.
"I can't lift like I used to," said Miller, who at 76 is among a growing group of seniors turning to a new type of specialist -- the senior moving manager -- to help with the daunting task of sorting through years of accumulated belongings. The growing aging population means the market is ripe for new businesses offering products and services for seniors.
"The industry is really growing," said Theresa Tucciarelli, owner of A Move Made Simple, a new Aptos-based certified senior moving consultancy business. "When I first started researching this idea two years ago, there were only 200 U.S. companies. Now there are 400. In California there were only seven and now there are 22."
As baby boomers retire, the U.S. population aged 65 and older is expected to jump nearly 80 percent, according to the National Association of Senior Moving Managers, a six-year-old nonprofit. By 2030, the elderly will account for one-fifth of the U.S. population. Americans age 85 and above comprise the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. The association reports a huge growth in the industry since its own inception in 2002.
"When she moved me I had blood clot in my leg and a broken back," said Miller, who works as an in-home aide. "I did not know I had osteoporosis. She just came in and did everything. Since then I'm stronger and able to work again. On my resume it says: No heavy lifting. That's what she does -- everything."
Tucciarelli worked 20 years in the restaurant business and another seven as a private house cleaner then headed back to school a few years ago. When a Cabrillo College guidance counselor asked about her interests, she remembered her first job with seniors as a teen.
"I just kind of fell in love with them," she said.
Tucciarelli had almost completed her associate arts degree in human services at Cabrillo College when she discovered a new class on human aging that explored physical, mental, emotional and transitional issues of seniors.
"It was just perfect for me," she said.
She researched relocation stress syndrome, a documented phenomenon of stress-induced illness brought on by moving. It is described in the Journal of Practical Nursing as "the combination of medical and psychological reactions to abrupt physical transfer that may increase the risk of grave illness or death."
She created A Move Made Simple to help people with downsizing, cleaning, moving and setting up their new homes. She is accredited by the National Association of Senior Moving Managers, which reports more than half of its members have launched businesses in the last two years. The Marina Technology Cluster business incubator helped her fine-tune business and marketing plans.
"Older people need more help in moving," Tucciarelli said. "It's physically challenging and also emotionally challenging. They might have lived in their house for 50 years."
The work, she says, involves really listening to people and helping encouraging them to let go of things that will not fit in a smaller home and are too expensive to store.
"I help them ease into the process and give them an emotional boost. That's what this business is about. I'm not just moving stuff but moving their lives and making them feel comfortable in the process," she said.
Sometimes a compassionate stranger is a better facilitator than a daughter or son, Tucciarelli said. "We ask them what they will use the most," she said. "They can't take the 300-piece collection of figurines. They have to make some big decisions and we help them do that."
There is grieving in moving. Tucciarelli and other specialized movers can help document heirlooms with photos or videos so seniors can pass along the history of each item when they give it to family members and friends.
"You need to take the time to laugh and to cry because you are going to go through your belongings and they will bring up memories," Tucciarelli said. "Moving managers guide you through that and they laugh and they cry with you we're a huge support."
Miller hired Tucciarelli to move her favorite lamps and tables and help with cleaning and moving as well.
"I had a lot of stuff and there is all the cleaning and packing and boxes," she said. "You're always overwhelmed when you have to pick up and move everything."