Aging In Place: The New Roles of Technology & Companions
For years now, the prevailing want of the mature adult demographic has been to age in place. To stay in the comforts and familiarity of their home with control over the day to day paints a picture of relaxed retirement and time to enjoy the fruits of hard work. Well, that is easier said than done even pre-COVID.
These were the same wants my in laws had from the outset of their retirement. They loved their home, they loved their neighborhood, they loved the memories that went along with every stick of furniture and picture on the wall. Staying at home regardless of where their health took them was going to be part of their journey - not negotiable. So, when they needed extra assistance with household management, the rigors of Medicare/insurance decision making and also understanding of what their financial outlook may be when combining the cost of chronic conditions with their nest egg and household overhead, it was alarming to find no qualified resources to assist us.
This is a no man's land of financial caregiving. Too low level for their financial advisor, out of the realm of a bookkeeper, no business of a home health aide and any app or online platform came up as not reliable, incomplete or impersonal. Thankfully, my in laws had me (a Certified Senior Advisor®) to help them build a trackable budget that they could understand and steer along with expertise in Medicare/insurance and senior living - the majority of the 50 million seniors in the US go at it alone.
Now, let's also keep in the back of our minds the ever present threat of scams and identity theft that plague the 50+ demographic. According to FINRA’s estimates, the elderly lose approximately $ 2.9 billion every year due to fraud. For those that are self managing everything from the Comcast bill to Medicare, reverting to the safety of an old school, paper based management style is the preferred method but live in a vacuum that can create peril down the road.
There might be some stigma for seniors in opening up their financial lives for others to see. But don’t think of it as an indication of decline; just think of it as an additional layer of security, which can be useful for people of any age.
Enter in the age of social distancing and COVID, where the strongest advice is that Older Americans keep themselves tethered to their homes. This further exasperates the issues of social isolation related to aging in place, lack of qualified resources to assist with senior lifestyle management and the great divide between the digital and paper based worlds. Companionship paired with qualified assistance is the prescription across the board. It has nothing to do with ailments or cognitive decline.
I beat a drum often about communication and planning with family, loved ones and clients. When having this discussion with my in laws, we referred to it as "the terrible/awful". It was a discussion around a few "terrible/awful" scenarios and what their wishes would be. If someone had an emergency hospitalization, if driving was no longer an option, if an upstairs bedroom wasn't manageable anymore. The necessity of these talks laid the groundwork for how not only their household would be managed but the steps that would be taken on their behalf when they did not have the agency to do so for themselves.
At the end of the day, early communication, intervention and implementation of a system and support that will engage the individual, respect their wishes and act as an advocate is paramount for the challenges of a COVID world.