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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:
- Medication management
- Food shopping and meal preparation
- 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.