A Guide to Senior Storage

If you are a senior moving into a senior residential living community, or if your family has a senior loved one who is planning such a move, there's a lot to take care of beforehand. One of the major things to work on is finding storage for furniture and other personal items that cannot stay in the home, perhaps due to its impending sale. Many senior living facilities have limited space for residents' personal items, or they might have limits imposed by state laws, which means that many treasured possessions must be either given away, thrown out or put into storage. Even if a facility has virtually unlimited space for personal things, it's still a good idea to store some of the bulkier and heavier items in a safe place until you're sure the new community will be a permanent home. By taking this route, you'll at least save the trouble of having to move everything twice if a change of facilities is required.

Key Point Module

  • 1 Senior storage needs are different from the needs of the general public.
  • 2 It takes time and research to find a good match with a senior storage facility.
  • 3 Storage may be only short term, though changes in unit size and requirements may be common.
  • 4 Some seniors’ items may remain in storage for many years before being retrieved.

It’s important to find a good senior storage facility for your items. Seniors have somewhat different storage needs than people in other age categories, and there are several criteria a storage site should meet to be a good match for senior customers. Knowing how to spot a good senior storage facility when you find it saves time, money and effort. Starting early, asking the right questions and finding the right storage facility for yourself or a senior loved one helps reduce the strain of a move for those already struggling with a difficult transition period.

What’s Special About Seniors’ Storage Needs?

Seniors often have unique needs when it comes to looking for storage that younger adults may not have to think about. Where many people look for storage units to hold surplus items that are taking up space in their homes, seniors are frequently looking to store most or all of the items in their homes. The transition into assisted living facilities or other senior living arrangements often results in the need for a place to store a houseful of furniture and a lifetime’s worth of keepsakes. Even when packed as efficiently as possible, this vast quantity of belongings can take up a lot of floor space and require a larger-than-usual storage unit.

Moving into a new home, even if it’s just downsizing into a smaller house or apartment, can be an expensive feat to accomplish for seniors living on a fixed income of Social Security and a pension. The cost is somewhat lessened if the storage is temporary, which it often is for seniors who intend to recover their things after they settle into a new place. Yet those savings are sometimes offset by the seniors’ need to hire professional movers who can handle the heavy items for them. This dynamic of circumstances causes seniors to need more space than younger adults, though often for less time.

Things to Look for in Senior Storage Arrangements

Meeting seniors’ needs for storage requires some unique concessions on the part of the storage facility. Extra space for large amounts of furniture, for example, helps keep all of a seniors’ household items together. Flexible pricing, or even a veterans’ discount, can be beneficial for many seniors and families trying to budget a move.

Flexibility is also helpful a few months after signing the initial contract when the senior is settled in and has the space to move some items out of storage and into their new home. It may be that a smaller storage unit is more appropriate after the couch, bed, dresser and several boxes of keepsakes have been transferred to the senior living community. Larger storage sites that have many different-sized units available make it quick work to shift the remaining items to a smaller and less expensive unit. This option is also much easier when rent on the unit is month-to-month from the start, instead of a fixed-term lease that requires you to rent a specific unit for a year or more.

Some storage facilities offer valet service to help move items into or out of a storage unit. Some even offer van or truck delivery for a nominal charge. Valet service is especially attractive for many seniors, even those who have family members who live close enough to help with such a move. One study found that seniors in America are up to five times more afraid of becoming a burden to their loved ones than of dying. A storage facility with a convenient and affordable valet service provides seniors with the option of handling item relocations by themselves. This helps them take more control of their affairs and lessens the embarrassment that occurs when they feel they’re imposing on loved ones.

Warning Signs to Watch Out For

It’s always a good idea to start your search for acceptable senior storage as early as you can; there’s a lot to research before the move. As you investigate storage facilities, you might notice characteristics that lead you to believe the site is not a good match for you or your senior loved one. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut impressions. Common warning signs include:

  • Rigid pricing or unit policies that impose a one-size-fits-all approach to senior storage
  • Long-term lease requirements that force seniors to rent more space than they’re likely to need in the near future
  • Inadequate security at the site, given the cash value of expensive items and heirlooms that are being stored
  • Restricted access or bad site layouts, which can make it difficult for movers to get close to the unit when moving bulky items such as couches
  • Poorly sealed units that are not ventilated or climate-managed, which can expose irreplaceable items to moisture, mold and other hazards
  • Puddles of water inside public areas of the building, which indicate that leaks might be present within the units themselves

How to Shop Around for Great Senior Storage Facilities

The importance of finding a great storage solution for a senior can’t be overstated. It takes time and research that may include physically visiting the sites you’re considering, to inspect them in person. Start your search online by looking up storage facilities located within a convenient distance of either the senior facility you’ve settled on or the home of a family member who can help with the move. Glance over the sites’ features and amenities and make a ranked list of the facilities you are considering, based on factors that matter to you, such as price, location and security.

Once you have a list of at least three to six potential sites, call and make an appointment to visit each of them. If you have the time, consider showing up unannounced a couple of days before your scheduled appointments to observe how the places normally operate on a daily basis.

Site managers often view these inspections as selling opportunities, so it’s a good idea to explain upfront that you are still investigating multiple locations. Ask to be shown the larger units, which you may need at first, and then check out the smaller options, which may wind up as your long-term choice after the final move. Look for evidence of leaks and gaps in the structure of the units, as well as dents or scrapes on the doors that could indicate frequent break-in attempts or other trouble. Try to gauge how much room a truck would require when backing up to the units you’re looking at and whether any obstacles could cause maneuvering difficulties. Finally, ask about price structures, flexibility in changing units, lease conditions and whether the facility offers discounts to senior citizens, veterans or their surviving spouses.

Final Questions to Ask When You’re Researching Senior Storage Options

Apart from inquiring about pricing discounts, consider asking the site manager some of these questions to get a fuller idea of how your storage choice is likely to work out:

  • Does the site offer extra-secure storage options for valuable items such as jewelry collections, art or military medals? What about insurance on these items?
  • Does this facility report unusual events, such as fires, leaks or break-in attempts, to residents in a timely manner? How will you be informed of such events? Are police reports or other formal documentation of these events available for customers to see?
  • If a senior client falls behind in their payments, how long is the grace period before the facility seizes their stored items?
  • Are on-site staff available to assist seniors with limited mobility? Will they help carry items out? Are there fees for this service?
  • Does this facility limit the frequency of visits?
  • Has this facility ever had an issue with bedbugs, toxic mold or other hazardous materials that could damage a senior’s cloth furniture, clothing or other personal items?
  • Can vehicles be stored at the location? Is there a parking space right next to the rented unit or are there units large enough to accommodate vehicles and personal belongings? Is there a discount available for this?
  • Can people other than the listed renter, such as a senior’s next of kin or caregiver, collect items or access the site without the senior being present? How are those permissions granted and documented?