Mover handles seniors with care

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

By Laura Baverman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jennifer Alford during a recent move.

Ruth Coors leaned over on the couch and said softly and sincerely, “Jennifer is the perfect mover.”

Jennifer Godin Alford, a professional mover and interior designer for senior citizens, had moved that couch almost one year before, when Coors and her husband, Harry, sold their St. Bernard home of 50 years to their grandson and opted for a smaller, easier living arrangement in the Evergreen Retirement Community in Wyoming.

“She said she would come to our home and suggest what we could take with us,” Coors said.

Little did they know that, within a few weeks, they would be moved into their new home without having lifted a finger.

Alford provides a moving service to senior citizens that includes packing the house, selling or giving away unwanted items, and moving belongings. She arranges for phone and cable service, hangs pictures and organizes clothing in drawers and closets.

“What really impressed me was my bed was made up, dust ruffles and all,” Coors said.

Alford started her business, Moving Matters, two years ago. She began her career as an interior designer, then took on a marketing position with Senior Lifestyle Corp., a company that develops upscale independent living centers for senior citizens. She eventually took a marketing position at Evergreen.

During her free time working at Evergreen, she helped the residents decorate their homes. She liked it so much that she decided to do it full time.

She was able to combine her two interests, helping senior citizens and interior decorating, into one career.

“Working with seniors is very delicate. It is important to be patient and to understand their needs to do my job,” she said. “There is a lot of hand-holding involved.”

Marcia Ballard, community relations coordinator at Evergreen, said she refers several moving companies to incoming residents, but Alford always shows the most concern for her clients.

“It’s not just the move. It’s all about relating to the person you’re working with and making them comfortable with the work you’re doing. Jennifer by far has shown to be the most caring with the residents,” Ballard said.

Moving into a retirement community requires a great deal of consolidation. Many of Alford’s clients have trouble parting with household items, so one of her major tasks is helping them prioritize their belongings.

Once those items have been packed and leftover items sold or given away, Alford sets up the move with her team of movers, each with upward of 20 years’ experience in moving.

Alford accompanies the movers from start to finish until each box is unpacked and each item is in its place.

“When I go into a home, I’ve already thought of where furniture should be placed,” she said.

“With my business, what I really emphasize is personal touch.”

Her clients know exactly what their homes will look like when they arrive, and they feel comfortable knowing that Alford supervised the whole endeavor.

But challenges are many in Alford’s field, as many senior citizens have mental or physical disorders that require her to take on more responsibilities.

“I’m not a miracle worker and a psychologist. There are times when I wear different hats, but often I’ll advise them in the direction to go,” she said.

All she can provide for them is patience and an understanding of those disorders that might restrict their ability to make decisions.

Also challenging is dealing with those clients who become attached to Alford and her movers. Clients often talk to them while they work and explain the significance of their belongings.

“It’s very heartwarming. I love listening to the stories, but I have to be careful because that takes time away from my work,” Alford said.

But Alford and her movers find their work both rewarding and fun. Alford said she wishes she had started the company years ago. Her movers say they’ll never quit.

“It started out as a job, as another client, but we’ve grown to specialize in it because of the experiences you have with them and the way that you feel after you are done,” mover Don Garmon said.

Jennifer Godin Alford can be reached at 931-7023.