Sara Zeff Geber
Sept. 3, 2018
Failing to prepare for all stages of retirement and aging can lead to heartache and panic in an emergency. If you ignore the fact that you have a good chance of someday being 90-something or 100-something, you do it at your own peril.
Six Planning Targets for Deep Aging:
• Emotional support
• Residential decisions and transactions
• Investments and financial decisions
• Legal representation
• Money handling and bill paying
• Medication management & help with the activities of daily living
Senior women having a laugh on the couch with the family dog. (Getty Royalty Free)
Along with introducing the above list in “Six Key Planning Targets for Solo Baby Boomers’ Deep Aging,” I discussed emotional support, which must stand alone as being the single most important ingredient in this stage of life. It may also be the most difficult to plan for, since none of us has any assurance of who will be nearby and alive when we are at that stage. However, it is important to look around you at whatever stage of life you are currently in and ask yourself who among those in your inner circle has the best chance of being there to support you. The most likely candidates are those who are younger and live closest to you.
In “Will Boomer Solo Agers Move to Senior Housing?“ I reviewed some of the housing options for seniors in late life and recommended that solo agers especially should do some research to understand what the affordable options are in their area––or an area where they would like to live out their lives. In “Who Will Manage Your Personal Finances If You Are Not Able?” I presented a case study and lot of evidence for being proactive in naming someone to take over financial decisions, money management, and legal representation when and if you cannot do these things for yourself. Much elder abuse could be prevented by good planning and communication before the need arises.
Medication Management and Help with ADLs
The final bullet on the good-planning list for solo agers is planning for medication management and help with the activities of daily living (ADLs). If this entry in the list seems a little odd, consider that these are the key ways in which adult children help their parents when the parent can no longer manage on their own. They are also the functions of a visiting nurse or caregiver or can be handled by personnel at a full-service residential retirement community or nursing home.
Among the six planning targets on the list, this one is probably the most uncomfortable to think about. It may well be the first time you have ever confronted the issue. However, it is no less important than the other five. Thirty years ago, my own father’s life came to a premature end because of botched medication management. After surgery to replace a leaky heart valve he was discharged with six different medications. One was a blood thinner and another was a diuretic. He lived with some friends for three months after the surgery and they helped him with the initial healing, but he ultimately went back to his own house where he mixed up those two medications and ultimately died from kidney failure in a hospital emergency room.
You Could Live to be 100
Why aren’t these issues discussed at greater depth and in greater frequency? One reason is that they are uncomfortable topics. Another is because previous generations typically didn’t live long enough to worry about “deep aging.” Today, anyone who reaches the age of 65 has better than a 50% chance of living to 85. That means a lot of us will live into our 90s and 100s. We all saw John McCain’s mother, at 106, making plans to attend her son’s memorial later this week in Washington DC. She is unusually mobile for that age but I suspect she is on several medications that keep her heart ticking, her blood flowing, and allow her joints to function without disabling pain.
Solo agers especially need to plan robustly for a time in life when we may not be able to do for ourselves all we do today.