Since 1989, eldercare expert Joy Loverde has been promoting the causes, concepts, and needs of an aging population. Author of the forthcoming, Who Will Take Care Of Me When I’m Old? (October 2017) Loverde specializes in new-product development and consults with mature-market advisors, health care providers, senior housing administrators, product manufacturers, and other members of the fast-growing eldercare advisory industry.
Despite our ongoing focus on reinventing retirement, Loverde maintains that 50 is NOT the new 30, and planning ahead is essential.
“We’re each going to have an extra 30 years, and if we don’t want to age like our parents, what are we planning to do?” She recommends we ask ourselves “4 Big Questions”:
- When am I old? What’s my aging set point?
- Who am I now? You may be married, but get divorced or be widowed. You may be single, and get married. You may adopt a pet.
- What’s all this age for, anyway? This is the era of the solo citizen — and if we’re not aging alone now, we probably will be if we live long enough.
- Who will be my advocate? People who are in our lives now may not be there tomorrow. How do we plan for a revolving door of people throughout our lives?
Retirement and Old Age Are Not the Same
Planning for old age is not the same as planning for retirement, says Loverde. In an era where we can easily live an entire generation beyond when we stop working, we need two distinct sets of life plans.
To plan for old age, start with your caregiving years. What did you learn from caring for parents, grandparents, spouse/partner, in-laws, friends, neighbors, etc.? What would you do differently? The advantage of having this perspective is, it brings midlife professionals and those approaching sixty up close and personal with old age: money, housing, legal paperwork, end-of-life issues.
The elderly have long been invisible, often, sadly, by their own design. In an emergency, such as the Chicago heat wave of 1995, many “invisible” elders perished because they did not open their doors when people knocked to check on them.
What is a senior’s plan to remain visible in old age? As a reverse mortgage professional, this is an important inquiry for your clients and prospects, especially if they do not have any younger family members. A senior must be “on purpose” about being seen; they cannot assume someone will recognize their needs.
One way is to develop relationships with people of all ages earlier in life. My lifelong friend Ellie was 44 years my senior, yet we were sisters and best friends; she was always interested in learning what was going on in others’ lives, and as a consequence, had many acquaintances and friends across the age spectrum. Even in her final years, she wasn’t alone or lonely. “Seniors must create a purposeful lifestyle. Be vital. Be of importance in your community. Be a part of the solution,” says Loverde.
How do you find an advocate? A guardian of your goals? An advocate is distinct from a caregiver, yet might also be someone you hire: an elder law expert, for example, or someone from a professional advocacy group.
The key is to plan ahead, and never stop the planning process. Once you have someone in place as POA and have filled out an advance directive, review it at least annually to make sure it’s still what you want.
Aging In Place Necessitates Action
Planning also means readying your home for your later years now, reminds Louis Tenenbaum, a leading authority on aging in place and founder of HomesRenewed, a coalition of business, government, non-profit and consumer stakeholders.
One of the first contractors to dedicate his remodeling business to aging in place in the early 1990s, Tenenbaum became curious about why such a good idea had so little traction in the marketplace. He researched the intersection of aging, housing, services, consumer motivation and market incentives, which led him to launch HomesRenewed.
“The bulk of long-term care will occur in single family, owner occupied homes…but the homes are not prepared,” according to a Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Encourage your HECM clients and prospects who desire to age in place to be aware and prepare! The more interconnected, interdependent, and interested in planning they are, the more enjoyable and engaging their future is likely to be.
Finally, says Loverde, make every effort to stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can, which will lessen the need for assistance later on.
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