Planning to Age Well: Age Planning & Caregivers
So you want to stay in the family home until you die? "Age Planning" will help you achieve this goal.
We are all clear that savvy financial planning optimizes choices and promotes financial freedom. Today, let's discuss "Age Planning," which is designed to prepare your home and personal networks for the physical, mental, and social changes that occur with aging.
Why Should I Be Interested in Age Planning?
The process of age planning is best done with a professional who understands the social, housing, and medical challenges of aging. When done properly and in conjunction with your wealth manager, it is a powerful process that protects your autonomy throughout the aging process.
While research shows that those who create a personalized Age Plan are significantly more successful in living their older years according to their own wishes and values, many people put off making concrete plans and find themselves losing control of their living environment.
Over the years of running Living Well at Home, my team and I frequently meet people who have become frail and who did not make a plan for aging. Too often, these elder people's homes and social environment have not been adapted to meet their changing needs, and instead of being a source of support, these environments have become a danger to the older person's well being. Sometimes, people move out of their homes prematurely, because they did not understand their options.
How Do I Start an Aging Plan?
An Aging Plan starts with identifying your key values and desires for where and how you want to live when you are older. It also identifies the type of medical or social support you would want if your health declines or your family situation changes. Then, it reviews your current living environment and identifies how it can be adapted to support you as you age.
People's choices for the location and type of living situation are highly personal. Some people look forward to selling their family home and moving to a home on the golf course. For others, staying at home is the only acceptable option. Some make the decision to move to a different country where US money has greater purchasing power while being close to family and long-term friends is essential for others.
Questions to Ask When Age Planning
More than 90% of Americans want to age in their own homes. For them, age planning includes looking at physical aspects of the home and seeing what can be adapted. For example, can doorways and halls be widened to accommodate a wheelchair? Can the beautiful 3-storied Victorian house with narrow staircases and long corridors be successfully modified for somebody with mobility problems? Can the kitchen be retrofitted to make cooking easier and safer? What can be done with the garden to make it easier to maintain and more accessible?
Location is important too.
Is the home well-situated for people who do not drive? How easy is it to get to medical care and to good hospitals? Is it located within walking distance to cultural or sporting events? What can be done to reduce the risk of potential isolation and loneliness?
What about technology?
Technology can be used to modify homes for different needs: "smart floors" adjust for people with balance problems, unobtrusive monitoring systems provide real-time safety checks, and robots can provide personal care. Tele-medicine offers virtual access to doctors, social networks can overcome isolation, smart transport systems offer independent options that don't depend on driving. Understanding these options of "assisted living at home" enhances the flexibility of the Aging Plan.
Age Planning & Home Care
Most people aged over 75 need some sort of personal care. Whether it's short-term care while recovering from surgery or 24/7 support from caregivers who understand memory loss, the Aging Plan identifies the environment that makes you most comfortable when receiving care and the type of care that best suits your personality. Some people only feel safe knowing that their caregiver is a highly-trained-and-certified professional, while others prefer a more informal caregiving environment.
Of course, these options have financial implications. Some support is covered by long-term care insurance, some annuities can be converted to pay for care, or reverse mortgages may be an option for some. An Aging Plan obviously must be based on the financial footing that is realistic for every individual.
Keeping an Aging Plan Flexible
Aging is not a static process. Your needs at 75 may be very different to those when you are 90. Widowhood and other personal losses can make you decide to seek social connection in a residential community. Sudden or chronic health changes can force changes in your personal care needs. Working out an aging plan in advance that addresses these potential challenges allows you to explore options and communicate your wishes.
It's easy to put off age planning, and we cannot predict the future. But being proactive early on significantly increases the possibility of aging your own way in your own home.