Six Key Planning Targets For Solo Baby Boomers’ Deep Aging
In my August 6 blog, I started a conversation about what Baby Boomers will need when they are very old. From the outset, I conceded that having children is not a guarantee that you will be well cared for in later life. Some adult children live several hundred (or thousand) miles from you; some might be estranged; some may have failed to adequately launch their own adult lives; and some may be disabled and unable to care for themselves, let alone a parent. Regardless of all those arguments about whether today’s still-young adult children will care for their Boomer parents when those boomers are very old, one has only to look around at what baby boomers today are doing for their own aging parents to have some faith in the future of families.
But what about the 20% of Boomers who do not have children? In the August 6 blog, I gave two (true) examples of how Boomers were caring for very old parents. They are both good examples of the variety of ways adult children provide support. Those two stories also highlight six key planning targets for solo agers for their own deep aging phase:
- Emotional support
- Residential decisions and transactions
- Investments and financial decisions
- Legal representation
- Money handling and bill paying
- Medication management
People enter deep aging at different points in their chronological age. Some of us will be still spry and active in our 80s, some will be able to still manage alone at 90+, and a few may still be hanging on to full autonomy at 100+. However, somewhere in those later decades most people need a little assistance with one or more of the six key areas.
No matter where parents reside, the adult children and grandchildren are usually the ones who visit, discuss family issues, provide chauffeur services when necessary, share pictures, take the parent for an outing, and generally stay in close contact with parents as they age. They do this on a regular basis, in person, on the phone, via video conferencing, and in letters and emails, with the women in the family typically taking the lead. For solo agers, nieces and/or nephews may be the ones to back fill that role. Are they ready and primed for it? If you are a solo ager, have you maintained close ties to your siblings’ children? One very good way to plan in this arena is to start the discussions with both your siblings and their children about what you might need in the future. If they are eager and willing to stay close to you and have you be a part of their lives, you are probably in good shape. If you do not sense the willingness or you simply don’t have these relationships, it’s best to move on to an alternative plan.
When solo agers have maintained ties to a strong social network (e.g. friends, a place of worship, a senior center, a health club, a bridge group, etc.), additional support may be available when help is needed with transportation, a task, or simply need some companionship. The best way for solo agers to plan for emotional support in later life is to start early to cultivate strong relationships within their social network. Churches and synagogues are well-known for the many ways they provide solace and relief for their oldest members and those who are ailing. Joining and nurturing those relationships will be key to emotional support when it’s needed.
The final way solo agers can plan for emotional support in later life is to engage the services of a senior care manager or licensed professional fiduciary. The latter sounds like it would be a person who is more finance or law oriented than someone who would provide emotional support, but many professional fiduciaries (this might be an unfamiliar term to anyone outside the western states) are caring, people-oriented individuals who tend to get involved in their clients lives well beyond the transactional level. Both professional fiduciaries and senior care managers can be engaged ahead of time to build a relationship. They would then go into service if and when they are needed, regardless of whether their client is living independently or in a retirement community.
In future blogs, I will go into more depth on the remaining planning targets.