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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Mining Gold in Your Golden Years

Senior adults are often viewed by younger individuals as fortunate. People in their retirement years have had a long full life, plenty of experiences, and so many wonderful memories. They have the great fortune of going on vacations, spending time with grandkids, not worrying about reporting to a job, and so much more in their "golden years."


Yet, many men and women who are in that 65+ age demographic have a very different mindset about this time in their lives. Depending on how well they planned financially in their income earning years is going to affect how well they can afford to live after they retire. Depending on how well they took care of themselves physically during their adult years as they were growing older from young adulthood until they are in their sixties and older is going to affect how well they are prepared to handle old age.


Due to the advances in medical science and healthcare, people are living longer. There are currently roughly 62 million adults ages 65 and older living in the U.S., accounting for 18% of the population. By 2054, 84 million adults ages 65 and older will make up an estimated 23% of the population, according to Pew Research study released earlier this year. The average lifespan in the US today is 77.5 years. That is a significant shift upward from a century ago.


According to research by Berkely University, In 1924, the average life expectancy in the United States was 58.1 years for men and 61.5 years for women. This was lower than the average life expectancy of about 56 years for men and 58 years for women before the widespread adoption of sanitation and pasteurization technologies. Life expectancy in the early 20th century was volatile, declining 13 times between 1902 and 1928. For example, the influenza pandemic of 1918 caused a sharp decline, with life expectancy at birth dropping from 50.9 years in 1917 to 39.1 years in 1918.


Over the past 160 years, according to Statista, life expectancy in the United States has risen from 39.4 years in 1860, to 78.9 years in 2020. One of the major reasons for the overall increase of life expectancy in the last two centuries is the fact that the infant and child mortality rates have decreased by so much during this time. Medical advancements, fewer wars and improved living standards also mean that people are living longer than they did in previous centuries. Life was exceedingly difficult, often harsh, in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Despite this overall increase, the life expectancy dropped three times since 1860; from 1865 to 1870 during the American Civil War, from 1915 to 1920 during the First World War and following Spanish Flu epidemic, and it has dropped again between 2015 and now. The reason for the most recent drop in life expectancy is not a result of any specific event, with the exception of the Covid pandemic, but has been attributed to negative societal trends, such as unbalanced diets and sedentary lifestyles, high medical costs, and increasing rates of suicide and drug use in the general population.


Quality of life has improved significantly over the past century. That is a big factor in how and why individuals are often outliving both their money, and sometimes their health. However, there are some telling issues with the individuals in their retirement years. The Population Research Bureau (PRB) has published some alarming statistics about the health of senior adults. (https://www.prb.org/resources/fact-sheet-aging-in-the-united-states/) For example:


  • Obesity prevalence among older Americans has increased at an alarming rate - Double digit increases over the past two decades have shown a rise from an average of 22% to 40%.

  • More older women are living alone - 25% at age 65, 39% at age 75, and 50% at age 85. Additionally, divorce rates in senior adults are increasing every year.

  • Older Americans face a caregiving gap - those with lower incomes and dementia are increasing year by year. Demand for elder care is expected to increase sharply with a rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could more than double by 2050 to 13 million, from 6 million today.


For many seniors and those approaching their golden years, focusing on what is most meaningful means planning out preferences for future care needs, finances, legal arrangements and other personal choices, then communicating these decisions clearly to loved ones, according to the folks at Right at Home, a senior adult care company (https://www.rightathome.net/blog/how-to-be-better-prepared-for-successful-aging).


However, as AARP reports, many Americans are just not ready for this type of meaningful (or successful) aging. One national survey found that only 58% of baby boomers (ages 53-71) have estate-planning documents. The survey also noted that just over half of older Americans have a power of attorney to help in case of serious health problems or mental or physical incapacity. It's not easy to bring up discussions about finances, ill health and eventual death. It may feel a bit awkward to talk through estate plans, though that conversation should happen at some point sooner than later.


Here are a few "Must Do" considerations to prepare for aging well:

  1. Gather Important Information - Health history, list of medications, doctors and thier contact info, financial accounts, legal documents and access, Insurances and policies, and other key facts.

  2. Organize tasks for individual caregivers and family members - key players are assigned an action plan to manage various responsiblities during care or crisis. Know in advance who is going to help when and where.

  3. Defined action plan in case of emergencies, unexpected hospitalization or other crisis - what about triage, care during medical issues, and post crisis management and follow up. Family relationships can get frayed during times of need and uncertainty. Develop a communication strategy early before any problems happen.


What about if it is you that is the caretaker or the adult child of an aging parent? A senior life plan begins with understanding your parents’ health and medical needs. Even if they are in good health, it’s important that your parents’ care and treatment preferences are stated in a living will and discussed with family members. According to The Zebra, here are a few good reminders of what to check:


  • Go over health needs, like medication and routine health care 

  • Gather important health/medical contacts 

  • Locate the nearest hospital or urgent care facility 

  • Establish a relationship with their primary care physician 

  • Discuss their latest check-up and help schedule upcoming appointments 

  • Review any chronic conditions 


As well, conversations about finances are a big part of helping to make senior family members comfortable with the management of their aging process. Taking care of legal issues while your parents are in good health can reduce stress brought on by the caregiving process. Discuss legal issues with your aging family members and make sure you know where to find their personal information and documents if you ever need them. Examples of good "need to know" basis items are:


  • Discuss where important documents are being stored 

  • Ask if a will has been drawn up and where it’s located

  • Check in to see if they have  power of attorney for finances and health care

  • Review their estate plan to ensure beneficiaries and responsibilities are up-to-date and listed correctly


Last but not least, make sure to go over your parents' insurance policies. It’s important to know what policies they hold and if they’re adequate, as well as where any accounts are located and if they’re up-to-date. This can help prevent financial burdens in case of a medical emergency or accident. 


The checklist below is a good representation of questions tht can start the process (https://cdn.thezebra.com/zfront/media/production/documents/aging-parents-checklist.pdf). If your parents are uninsured, it may be a good idea to get them some type of coverage before they age out of insurability:


  • Make a list of all active insurance policies (auto, home, health, long-term care, etc) 

  • Gather contact information for their insurance advisers

  • Review homeowners, auto and life insurance to make sure they are adequate and up-to-date 

  • Look over health insurance coverage and see if any policy changes need to be made based on your parent’s current or future needs 


Another key aspect of aging, especially for single older adults, is loneliness, especially after the loss of a spouse. Vulnerable older adults are at a higher risk for both social isolation and loneliness for a number of reasons. According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults are more prone to experiencing isolation and feelings of loneliness because of the social and health changes that often occur with aging such as hearing issues, vision problems, memory loss, disability, transportation difficulties, and the loss of family and friends. (https://www.oakstreethealth.com/loneliness-in-older-adults-ideas-for-coping-with-loneliness-1041542).


Loneliness for seniors can manifest in many ways. If you are a senior adult reading this material, find solutions to help you manage and overcome this lifestyle situation, such as finding a hobby, scheduling social time with others, involvement in community activities, volunteering, mental health counseling, and more. Don't become isolated or depressed because you feel separated from society. Take the initiative to reach out to get help which is available to you.


There is gold in the golden years if you plan ahead, live a good, healthy lifestyle, and manage your affairs in advance to help you sustain them. VIsit this website for more information about services for senior adults: https://www.careingdentalgroup.com/senior-health-and-wellness. As a certified retirement specialist and licensed insurance agent, it would be my pleasure to have a dialogue with you about getting ready for this special time in your life.



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