Aging with a Plan

The old and very old years as labeled by Erik Erikson, renowned developmental psychologist, are the longest stages of the life span and least prepared for. People save for retirement to continue their lifestyle after retiring from their job.  Planning for aging is preparing for living 20-30 years after retiring at the age of 65, which is years longer than all of childhood, college, raising children and longer than middle age.  They  plan for marriage, babies, vacations, college, building homes, and save for retirement, but planning for aging is different than monitoring a 401K. 

Some people dabble in aging preparation; downsizing their home with all essential living area on one floor, getting rid of large yards, adding a few grip bars, or moving closer to family members.  True planning includes home adaptation for aging as a part of routine remodeling, holistic health management, financial planning for assistance to age in place and dual access to assets, accessing senior services to remain informed and connected, and legal preparation including wills, power of attorney and living wills. 

On my to-do list is the remodeling of the master bath in my home.  Initially the old tub was to be replaced by a corner whirlpool tub, both stylish and sleek.  Now with plans to age in place, these plans have been replaced with wider doors that are walker accessible, a walk-in shower and taller toilet.  As my dad aged and became more physically disabled his environment was adapted to accommodate his increasing physical limitations.  The bathrooms were adapted, gardening was brought to his level, his workbench was lowered and aisles between work spaces were widened.  A scooter was acquired to increase his mobility and ramps were built. Wills, POA, and living wills had been prepared, but were reviewed. I had been added years earlier as cosigner on all of the assets. Oxygen sources were located to enable travel, Medicare part D was applied for and reviewed annually, Veterans benefits were explored and applied for, and financial planning was reviewed to ensure resources for an extended life span my parents and many of their generation had not planned for. Most of this was planned for years ago, making the implementations a smooth transition for my parents and myself.

Aging with a plan and planning to age must both be done to age with grace and the resources needed.  As my dad would always say the only other alternative is “don’t get old” – not really my favorite option.