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Class of ’71

Moving Memories and More

The caller was frantic. His father lives in an Alzheimer’s facility. His mother had sold her house to move to a retirement village, and had to leave within a month. But she broke her arm and leg in a fall, requiring six weeks of rehabilitation.
With that phone call, this logistical nightmare became another organizational challenge met by Margit Novack CW’71 GCP’75 and her staff at Moving Solutions, a Havertown-based company which provides moving-related services to older adults.
"We took five rolls of film of every single thing in house, labeled what it was, made double copies and put them in an album organized by room," Novack explains. "We took the floor plan for the new unit and, with her at the rehabilitation facility, used the album as a reference tool so she could be involved. We packed everything up, stayed there while the movers loaded, then supervised as they unloaded." The next day, their client came home to a completely set-up apartment.
Following a career in medical administration (she was formerly an acute care manager at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania), Novack became interested in creating a business that would involve working with older adults. She founded Moving Solutions in 1996. Three years and some 300 moves later, her company was named 1999 Business of the Year by the American Society on Aging in the small-business category.
"Moving is a chore for anyone, but for the elderly it becomes incredibly complicated," Novack says. In many cases, the elderly person’s grown children live too far away to assist, or are tied up with their own job and child-rearing responsibilities. Many senior moves are precipitated by illness, a fall or the death of a spouse. Most clients also face the task of paring down the accumulation of a lifetime.
Armed with bubblewrap, boxes and checklists, Moving Solutions consultants help coordinate all aspects of a move aside from the actual loading and hauling. Novack stresses the need for caring treatment of people and possessions. "Sometimes our clients are crying. Sometimes we’re helping them pack a plastic bride and groom from a wedding cake. It has no material value, but it’s priceless. We do hear the stories, and the stories are an important part of people saying goodbye."
One thing this business has taught her, Novack says, is not to generalize about the elderly population. "I’ve moved dozens of people who are still incredibly active–artists in their eighties and nineties, 90-year-olds installing Windows 98 on their computers–and I’ve moved people in their seventies who are confused." But though "they may be very frail now," she points out, in the process of helping them pack, "you see what they did at other times in their lives. It’s humbling, because it’s very clear you’re seeing one chapter in a long book."

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Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/31/99