We’re Aging. Are you Ready?

Pinnacle Personnel Services, LLC  |  Debbie Hatch

We’re Aging.  Are you Ready?

By 2030 – just 10 short years from now – the U.S. Census Bureau projects that all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age.

To be clear:  retirement can be a long, happy, and fulfilling time in our lives.  It’s a new and exciting chapter. If we exercise, eat right, and take care of ourselves, many of us will be healthy well into the 8th, 9th, or even 10th decade of life.  On average, we’re living longer and better in retirement.

But we do age.

You.  Me.  Every one of us, if we’re lucky.

That means we also eventually see physical, mental, and emotional changes.  They may be slight at first.  We lose some muscle tone.  We notice decreased flexibility and endurance.  We might have a hard time remembering certain things.  We may feel depressed or isolated more often.  Our vision and hearing diminish.

During this time, many people think about how to provide to loved ones when they pass away. People write wills, set up trusts, complete designated beneficiary forms and maybe even pay for their own funeral/final expenses.

This stuff is very important!

What we don’t do is think about the “in-between”.

What happens in-between the time when we are healthy mobile adults and we pass away?

What if we develop a long-term illness?

What if we can’t drive – or shop, or cook, or clean for ourselves?

What’s our plan for that?

It’s too depressing to think about!  Maybe so but it happens regardless.

We can’t cover every eventuality!  True but should we plan for the things we know have a high probability.

Most Older Adults Don’t Think They’ll Need Help

Elder care is an increasing concern. According to AARP’s 2015 report, Caregiving in the U.S.

  • 5 million people have provided unpaid care to a family member in the last 12 months.
  • 82% of caregivers care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults.
  • 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Unfortunately, there’s also a growing gap between the number of seniors needing care and the number of caregivers available to provide it. Doctors’ and nurses’ career interest in geriatric medicine continue to wane at a time when the health care needs of older adults are increasing.

Will you age in place, at your own home?

If that’s your plan (and for many it is) the questions become,

  • Will you have the resources to meet your health, social, and emotional needs as you age?
  • Is the home you’re living in appropriate for aging?
  • Are the countertops at the appropriate height?
  • Are the doors wide enough for a wheelchair or walker?
  • Do you have a step-in shower?
  • Should you install grab bars?
  • Will you be able to get up and down stairs?

If not, it might be a very good idea to pay for some of these upgrades now while we’re still working and have more financial flexibility.

  • Are you in a neighborhood with access to public transportation (or family/friends) if you need to go somewhere?
  • Is there a food delivery service in the area? Many groceries stores are doing this today which is fantastic!
  • Will your neighborhood be a safe place for you to get outside, go for a walk, and/or get fresh air as you age?

If not, it might be a good idea to consider moving now – simply so you can become familiar with the surroundings and establish relationships.

Will you have someone come by to help with things you can no longer do?

  • Who is that going to be? The personal care industry is lacking.  It’s a job most don’t want to do and those that do it are paid poorly.
  • How are you going to pay for it?
  • Do you have family that will help? Be aware that’s not really free either. It comes at a significant emotional, and also sometimes financial, cost to the caregiver.
  • Have you thought about sharing a living space with other older friends?
  • Can you bank time for time? I found TimeBank, an interesting organization that credits people one hour of time in the future for one hour of time they personally volunteer now.


We Drastically Underestimate How Much Care Will Cost

According to data published at SeniorCare.com, 72% of those needing care must pay for these costs out of pocket. Some people assume Medicare will shoulder most of what they need, but Medicare is only estimated to cover up to 12% of long-term care costs.

What if you do need to go into a nursing home or assisted living facility?  The overall cost of care depends on the type and duration of care you need, the provider you use and were you live. Here are some national average costs across the United States in 2016:

  • $225 a day or $6,844 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
  • $253 a day or $7,698 per month for a private room in a nursing home
  • $119 a day or $3,628 per month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
  • $20.50 an hour for a health aide
  • $20 an hour for homemaker services
  • $68 per day for services in an adult day health care center

My intent is not to depress you.  I hope we all live a long and happy retirement.  The purpose of this blog is merely to spark some thought in three key areas of retirement planning.  To give you something to think about.

Financial wealth:  long-term care can be expensive.  The things we think will cover us don’t always actually cover us.  We need to be aware of that and plan appropriately.

Physical health:  taking care of our bodies on the front end equals benefits on the back end.  Eat as healthy as you can. Work on strength, flexibility and cardio vascular endurance.  They’re all important as we age.  Get your sleep.  Have regular medical, optical, and dental exams.

Emotional health:  there are myriad studies that show social interaction is critically important as we age.  We may feel a tug to isolate ourselves but it’s critical to fight against that tendency.  Develop friendships, continue to interact with the people around you, set standing dates and stick to them – even if you don’t really feel like it.

As you think about aging, I’d also like to recommend the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.  If you prefer Audible, here’s where you’ll file that version.  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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