Marilyn Allen and Smooth
Transitions can be reached at 822-2004. Joy Earls can be reached at Windermere
Real Estate at 541-6550. And Mark Earls Construction can be reached at
Are you a baby boomer trying
to help your aging parents decide what to do with the house they've lived in
for the past 40 years?
Or maybe you live out of
state and your mother lives here and needs to downsize but is overwhelmed by
the idea of moving?
Or maybe you're 70 living in
a house that's simply too big and no longer suits your lifestyle?
Well, three Missoula boomers
have solutions for you. The three - Mark and Joy Earls, along with Marilyn
Allen - aren't precisely in the same line of work, but their fields overlap
enough to make business sense.
Joy Earls sells real estate
for Windermere, while her husband owns a construction company that has lately
focused on building downsized homes.
Allen's job is less
traditional; she's in the business of "senior move management."
It's exactly what it sounds
like, only more so.
"What I'm doing is
helping older people move who don't have anyone to
help them," said Allen, whose business is called Smooth
Transitions. "That can mean everything from helping them decide what they
want to take with them to actually packing their stuff."
The central tenet of the
trio's business is aging.
"Aging presents a lot
of challenges in general, but issues regarding homes and where you live can
really be difficult," Joy Earls said. "It's pretty easy to just get
so caught up in the complexity of it all that maybe you do nothing at all. You
know you want to move, but you're not sure what step to take next."
Sometimes, the right move is
to some sort of assisted living. Sometimes it's simply a case of needing a
smaller house that doesn't require as much upkeep.
In either of those cases,
there's always the matter of what to do with all the stuff that's collected
over a lifetime.
"I have something I call a memory
minder," said Allen. "It can be as simple as a photograph but as
complicated as an armoire. The armoire may have a lot of meaning, but it's going
to be very difficult to relocate. Sometimes my job is to help people work
through what these things really mean to them. It can be quite touching at
Before people can start
deciding what to take, they need to decide where to take it. Allen can help
with the process of thinking through that, but Mark Earls can actually build
you a new home.
Several years ago, he built
a small subdivision off River Road solely for those 55 and older.
The homes were designed with
gracefully aging boomers and their parents in my mind.
"It's amazing the
problems a couple of six-inch steps can cause, so these houses are designed
with that in mind," Earls said. "You can go from your bedroom to your
car and the mailbox without having to go up or down a step."
Earls said building homes
specifically for older folks isn't especially difficult, but it does require a
lot of planning.
"You just have to think
through the things that are potential problems," he said.
Thus, such a home would have
wider doors to accommodate a wheelchair. Lights that turn on with a simple
press instead of a typical flip. Bedrooms big enough "so someone in a
wheelchair could go in there and turn around," he said.
"We make sure they have
a real, full-size garage in case they just can't bear to get rid of all that
stuff that's piled up over the years," Earls said.
Although Earls' subdivision
is now full, he's built several other "senior" homes and sees it as
increasingly his primary market.
"I really feel
like that's where we're headed," he said. "And it's something you can
do and really feel good about, knowing that you're really making life easier
Joy Earls said that as she
thought about the market for homes over the next few years, what struck her was
the aging population.
"I think the need
will really come as the boomer ages, but we're also seeing the boomers right
now trying to help out their own parents," she said. "That just seems
like a market that needs a little bit of specialization, and that's why we
think our little group makes sense."
Reporter Michael Moore can
be reached at 523-5252 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.