A friend said to me the other day after spending time assisting—and arguing—with his fiercely independent but not-so-agile 90 year old father, “He never thought he’d live this long so nothing has been planned. But I know I might live into my 90s. How do I do “getting old” better?”
The baby boomer generation is really the first generation coming into retirement age with the knowledge that living into your 80s and 90s is a probability not an exception. In fact, most financial advisors will tell you to plan your finances to age 100 reducing the chances that you will outlive your money.
That means putting some things in place now to make sure your life is the way you want it to be when you are not so able to take care of or speak for yourself.
Here are four tips to get you started on planning how to do “getting old better:”
1. Talk to your family. Boy, do we hate talking with our family members about fundamental things like money, health, long term care and death. But here’s the deal. If you are going to count on them to help you when you are not so able, then you owe it to them now to tell them what you have in mind. It is truly a gift to let them know about what resources you have or don’t have; where your important legal documents are located and who you want to make important health decisions for you if you are no longer able. One resource to get you started is a document called 5 Wishes that helps you identify your preferences regarding medical, personal, and emotional needs when you can no longer speak for yourself.
2. Get your legal documents in order. Here are some of the legal documents that will make it easier for your family: a financial power of attorney; a medical power of attorney; advance directives, and a will. You can download a free copy of your state’s advance directive here or contact your states attorney general. If you have a financial planner or insurance agent who knows about all of your insurance and financial documents, introduce your children or whoever you will be looking to help you in your later years.
3. Consider long term care insurance. Medicare does not pay for long term care, except under very limited circumstances following a hospital stay. Long term care insurance helps pay for non-medical care when you can no longer care for yourself. That can be simply someone who comes in to help you cook, or assist with your medications or personal grooming, all the way to assisted living and nursing home care. Most plans include home care and can even help pay for modifications to your home so that you can stay there as long as you can. Speak with a specialist in long term care insurance who can help you determine if it is insurance that fits your needs. It’s smart to buy it when you are in your 50s or early 60s. The younger and healthier you are the more affordable the policy will be and the more likely you will be to qualify.
4. Think about where you want to live in your “slow go” years. The early years of retirement are often called the “go-go years” because you’re doing all those things you couldn’t do when you were working. There are great travel experiences. New friends. Maybe, a move to a new state with all the excitement of “starting over.” But if you live into your 80s and 90s that location may no longer be right for your “going slow or no go” years. And by the way, admit that at some point you will no longer be able to drive so consider transportation alternatives in the community. So consider now where you will be best suited to live when you hit that stage of life …and then do you and your family a huge favor and make the move before you have to.
It is hard to think about a time when you can’t take care of yourself as you have for years. But if you do the rewards are plenty.
You’ll feel more independent and happier living in a place and a way that you choose. And, your family will know how you want them to be of assistance. Now, that’s doing “getting old better.”
Laura Rossman has over 20 years of experience in health and senior care services. She currently heads up marketing and communications for iQuote by Longevity Alliance, an independent national insurance broker who helps seniors compare Medicare insurance and long term care insurance from multiple providers.