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Group helps seniors downsize, move

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Lynn Malinowski helps people hold estate sales.

The Blade/Lisa Dutton
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After Lynn Malinowski's father became terminally ill and died a few years ago, the Perrysburg woman didn't know who could help her mother downsize and move to a senior complex.

Laura Scholl of Ida, Mich., wanted out of the mortgage and banking industry after 30 years and wanted to offer some type of senior-focused service.

Both women and their business partners have opened franchises of Cincinnati-based Caring Transitions, aimed at helping seniors and their families in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio to select independent or assisted living facilities; sort through items to downsize or liquidate households; hold estate or other sales; prepare houses for sale; pack and unpack, and coordinate other related services.

Auction companies and other firms hold sales or offer other services, but Caring Transitions strives to provide a longer range of services, Ms. Malinowski said. Caring Transitions makes seniors and families aware of other services and programs, too, such as pension benefits to help war veterans pay for assisted living facilities.

"We do whatever they want us to do," said Ms. Malinowski, adding the firm can recommend movers. "We're there for them."

She added: "It makes the transition a little bit easier."

Various businesses are cropping up to serve the so-called "sandwich generation," including millions of baby boomers helping their aging parents while raising their own families. Baby boomers themselves are aging, too, with one in five U.S. residents expected to be 65 and older by 2030, making services aimed at seniors a promising market.

Many customers of the Caring Transitions franchise in Ida are in their 80s or 90s, so their children may also be elderly and unable to help their parents much, Ms. Scholl said. She and co-owner Cheryl Taylor opened their Caring Transitions franchise in June, 2007, to serve southeast Michigan.

The Ida franchise held roughly 30 sales last year, which not only benefit clients but offer local residents suffering in the recession a cheaper way to get household items, Ms. Scholl said.

"This just makes good sense for people to start coming to the sales," she said.

Ms. Malinowski and her husband, Brian, opened their Perrysburg franchise in November to serve northwest Ohio.

Among others involved with the business are her mother, Rita Lammie, who opened a cleaning and handyman service in Perrysburg nearly three years ago, and her brother, Mark Haefner, who recently received a patent for a walking cane holder.

"This is a perfect fit for my family to do," Ms. Malinowski said of Caring Transitions.

Both franchises offer free consultations, and prices for services vary.

The Caring Transitions in Perrysburg, for example, typically gets 35 percent from an estate sale for which the franchise does the preparation work, including sorting, cataloging, cleaning, and pricing, or charges $15 to $25 an hour for other services, Ms. Malinowski said.

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