With the aging of “Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964/ A.K.A. the Silver Tsunami) the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to almost triple. (13.8 million by 2050) The fifth-leading killer of aging Americans; it destroys brain cells; affecting memory, language, reasoning and behavior. (approximately 5 million Americans every year.) Those are the numbers that are reported. Some familiies hide their ‘problems’ and this area is no different. Excuses are endless. (“senior moment”) Facing this complicated reality is often ignored. My step-dad, Tom started presenting signs of dementia after a stroke. Mom became the brains of their partnership. Against my adamant advice, they embarked on a Baltic cruise in May of 2013. Mom was his ‘keeper’, but she became deathly ill at sea and required immediate hospitalization. The cruise ship was diverted to Stockholm. They were officially disembarked and transported by ambulance to St. Joran’s Hospital. The compassionate doctors were so concerned about Tom literally getting lost without mom, they admitted him to the hospital for ‘safe-keeping’ where he stayed in a bed next to hers. (His own Americian doctor didn’t want to tell him he had Alzheimer’s.) At 7 a.m. on May 27th, I received a phone call from Emma, the Port Agent for the Cruise Lines asking me to come to Sweden and take custody of Tom. After a 4 day stay to stabilze mom, they flew home with a Medical Escort. (Thank goodness for trip insurance!) Mom died March 10, 2014, about 10 months after the cruise. Tom now lives in a ‘Retirement Center.’ I went to visit him yesterday; I go at least once a week. He told me that he had signed some papers that morning. I called my step-sister to ask her what he was talking about. She explained that she had sold mom and Tom’s house. The closing was yesterday. Try to talk to Tom; after a few minutes, you will realize he has some form of dementia. How can anyone with dementia or Alzheimer’s sign a binding legal document? Let’s hope more effective prevention and treatment methods are discovered for Alzheimers! At least 30 state legislatures have adopted plans or task forces to address the disease. “We’re being proactive here in Connecticut,” says Representative Joseph Serra, co-chair of the state’s newly established Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. “I believe we need to get a handle on it before it’s an even bigger problem.” The problems surrounding aging are very complicated with cascading effects. It can unravel families. Start the dialouge with your grown children. Be proactive about your own destiny.
Millions of people will enter retirement without sufficient resources to house and feed themselves for the rest of their lives. This “Silver Tsunami” is coming as the boomer generation enters their senior years. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of older Americans will double, to 72.1 Million. For the first time in history, people over 65 will outnumber children under 5. This past recession destroyed the dreams of a tradional retirement for many. When seniors are no longer employable or capable of working, there aren’t adequate strategies to keep the boomer generation out of homelessness and hunger. In the next 10 years, the “Silver Tsunami” will burden the social services system, tax communities and stress families to the point of collapse.
President Kennedy established Older Americans Month in 1963. Seventeen million Americans were 65 or older, about a third of those seniors lived in poverty. Now, according to a recent Census Bureau report, there are 40.3 million people aged 65 and older. Over 23 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure; living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. According to AARP, in eight years, from 2001 – 2009, the number of Americans aged 50+ threatened by hunger soared by 79 percent, to nearly 9 million people. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College said in 2013 that more than half of working-age households faced a deteriorating standard of living in retirement.”
According to the California Commission on Aging, the average income of elderly Californians is about $25,500, and Social Security accounts for 28 percent of older Californians’ income. A UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development estimated that 7 out of 10 elderly Latinos and African-Americans and six out of 10 Asians don’t have enough income to pay for their basic needs. Published in 2012, a Pew Research Center study found that the percentage of people ages 55 to 64 who doubt they will have enough to live on during retirement increased to 39 percent in 2012 from 26 percent in 2009. Meals on Wheels Research Foundation reports the number of seniors experiencing hunger rose 200 percent between 2001 and 2011.
There are deliberate decisions to consider and action steps to take.
First- Figure out where you want to live. Housing is the critical issue. The Internet is filled with lists of the most affordable places to retire. Based primarily on home prices, they also take things into consideration like weather and crime rate. Most of them ignore the desire and need to be near family, friends (caregivers) and facilities (healthcare, recreation/community centers/resources) If uprooting and relocating is an option, try an extended stay at a few places before you fully commit to moving. This is a step you should carefully explore before you retire. Prepare your living space for the long haul; if you plan on staying in your current home, make absolute certain it can accommodate you as your body morphs with age and possibly disease. Unforeseen mobility issues will complicate almost every single activity of daily living; practically every possible thing. Think about steps, stairs, hallways, first floor bedrooms, lighting, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, electrical plugs and switches that you can reach. Ease of bathroom access and functionality is essential. Borrow or rent a wheel chair and see how your activities of daily living work out. Think hard about how much space you actually need and want to maintain. Even if your home is paid off, houses are expensive to heat, cool and maintain. Consider ways your home can provide additional income; rent a room to a college student or another retired person thereby turning it into a source of income for you. If any remodeling or updating needs to be done, do it while you are up for this mentally, and financially challenging process.
Deal with the Directives, wills, etc. (Advanced Directives) Medical and Durable Powers of Attorney. Have these serious,honest and often uncomfortable conversations with your children, friends, family members. Do it now.
Start saving. AARP reports that three out of five households headed by a person 65 or older have ZERO money in retirement savings accounts. Be reasonable about this. Earn potential prosperity from acceptable austerity.
Learn to budget (again) Retired people that live on fixed incomes generally use a combination of Social Security and a pension and/or withdrawals from their 401k or IRA. Occasionally, there may be passive income. Run the numbers now. Create a Long-Term plan and prepare a plan B as well; life can throw costly curve balls.
ALSO- Adjust your expectations. You will not have your parents’ retirement or even the one you were anticipating 10 years ago. Plan to work longer and be creative about producing income and reducing expenses. Be realistic about the life style you want to maintain.