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Difficult Decisions


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Reverse Mortgage And Senior Support Services

HECMs can be financial lifesavers for seniors who want to age in place. But what if an individual or couple’s ability to age in place changes over time? Children or other significant relatives who live at a distance would be wise to plan ahead in order to help the elders in question remain independent for as long as practical.

This article on long-distance caregiving explains what family members need to know. Reverse mortgage professionals may want to keep such information handy to share with the children of clients and prospects who are participating in their parents’ HECM process, as well as to use as a handout when addressing groups about how a HECM can help seniors age in place.

Some of the key issues include:

  1. Medication management
  2. Food shopping and meal preparation
  3. Transportation
  4. Household safety and household management

One of the benefits of aging in place is mobility: being able to frequent the places one is accustomed to, such as bookstores, cafés, theatres, etc., whether a senior gets there by car, bus, bicycle or on foot. An increasing number of towns across America offer affordable senior transport such as Paratransit, a flexible shared transportation option that typically uses minibuses to take seniors and people with disabilities where they need to go. There are also transport services specifically for medical appointments.

The greater problem may be not the availability of such services, but persuading older adults — especially men — to use it.

Driving can be a thorny issue for families, as handing over the car keys signals “the end of independence” to many elders. Men who have managed businesses as well as been heads of household may insist they’re fine, even as slowed reaction times and visual or hearing impairments make continuing to drive dangerous — not necessarily because the senior isn’t being cautious, but because they may not be able to respond quickly enough to other drivers’ errors, or to an unexpected event such as a child darting into the street.

This page offers a wealth of information on aging and driving. The gentleman who curated the content reports that when he surrendered his car keys — even though he chose to do so due to failing eyesight — it was “a devastating experience. To live outside the security of a private bubble with a steering wheel put me in alien territory.”

Contrast this perspective with that of an 86-year-old woman who recently moved into a spacious senior apartment that she adores: “Mondays through Fridays, hourly from 9 am to 4 pm I can ride the Macon County Transit with a $25 monthly pass, permitting me to shop for groceries or whatever I need along a fixed route that includes Kmart, Walmart, library and also trips along the way by request. This solves the problem of being without a car. Perhaps the reality is that even should I feel it is something I could afford, at my age — with slowed reactions, hearing deficiencies and readily distracted — I would simply be a road hazard and danger to others.”

Winston Churchill said, “We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves, and we are applying to the present the habits of the past.” The more we can flow with the rapidly evolving options for seniors that both a reverse mortgage and senior support services can provide, the greater the opportunity today’s and tomorrow’s elders will enjoy to age in place with purpose, participation and joy.




Leave a Comment


  1. Amara,

    I really like the content. What I question is the link between the opening sentences and the overall subject matter, i.e., its application.

    You open with: “HECMs can be financial lifesavers for seniors who want to age in place. But what if an individual or couple’s ability to age in place changes over time?” Yet the overall subject matter applies to all seniors, no matter where they live or the financing they use to live there. In this case the application is far too limited.

    Besides Aging in Place is a byproduct of HECMs, not necessarily how HECM proceeds will be used. For example, HECMs are primarily a source of financing which can be reapplied for even if the senior chooses not to age in place. In other words 62 year olds who get HECMs could sell their existing home and buy a new one three times before their demise and they could be eligible for a HECM each of the three times. Some seniors are snow birds and only live in the home which serves as collateral for the HECM enough to keep the HECM in place; some say that is no more than one day per calendar year while others say that it is a minimum of six months plus one day each calendar year. I just dealt with a borrower who is 85 and lived in their last home for less than 20 years; she is looking to do a HECM for purchase and she does not believe that is her last home “as long as the good Lord does not take me home first.”

    My father is well over 90 and still drives daily; he just stays off the road during peak traffic times. He would never drive to a sporting event or other event where there was a great deal of traffic. He does not have a HECM but the driving question is one we have faced with and addressed to him on several occasions.

    • Cynic,

      Good points. Amara is addressing the broader challenges of aging in place and how a HECM used in conjunction with community senior services can help address some of the most common challenges of aging such as driving and maintaining the ability to stay engaged in the community.

  2. I can recall when my grandfather was told by my mother and his State Farm agent that he was no longer a safe driver; he didn’t realize his abilities had deteriorated to that extent. Mom recognized it when she was following him one day as he was weaving in and out of the traffic lanes. Fortunately we lived where there was excellent public bus transportation plus Mom took him other places whenever he needed it.

    I live in the Southern half of Florida which on occasion has been termed “God’s Waiting Room”, and we have way too many inept elderly drivers…some who are so small they can hardly see over the steering wheel. Not only do they cause multiple accidents in parking lots, but they are the cause of many fatal accidents at intersections. You are exactly right about their having diminishing senses and slower reaction times. Added to this are the many drivers who are busy with their cell phones and don’t focus on their driving. My pet peeve these days is that people have stopped communicating in person. Have you noticed that folks of all ages are glued to their tablets and iPhones? Example is when I went for a dentist appointment recently, there were six people in the waiting room. I was the only one reading a magazine while all the others were glued to their devices looking down in their laps.

    Thanks again for all your great work.

    • Dick,

      Perhaps you did not realize that the same articles you were reading on paper may be articles one or two of the people in the waiting room were reading on their devices as well. Years ago I remember driving to Beverly Hills when I spotted several people reading newspapers covering their steering wheels while they were crawling in traffic. I have seen many women doing their nails while in heavy morning traffic. Distraction is not a phenomenon of this time period, but it is much more convenient now than at any time in the past.

      A few months ago a neighbor of my parents who moved in to a new track home at the same time as my family about sixty years ago was found to have advanced Alzheimer’s. When my wife met with some of the neighbors to discuss what was going on in my father’s neighborhood, one of the neighbors told my wife that he never worries about my dad’s driving but, boy, did the neighbor with Alzheimer’s ever cause near collisions. The odd thing is that my dad is well over 90 and the neighbor is well over 80, about ten years younger. My wife told him she was relieved to hear that since my brother and I had had several discussions with my dad on that subject.

      Even age brings problems, what is the right age for all seniors to stop driving? That is a question open to much argument and discussion.

  3. Dick,

    Thank you for always being an encouraging, supportive reader! I appreciate your excellent ideas and input, and am honored to be serving you and your reverse mortgage business.

  4. Back to the Cynic’s comments about aging in place. I think he is exactly right.

    Our financial needs change as we age, and one consideration has to do with how we use our money now to enjoy a reasonable lifestyle while we can – versus saving most of it for a future time that we may never live to see. That doesn’t mean blow it all now and be destitute later, but allocate more while you are younger and can enjoy it and still have sufficient money to meet your daily needs later.

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