We all hope our aging parents will be robust and independent as they navigate their eighties. Some will, but the majority, nine out of ten, will not. They will become frail or suffer from dementia. They will wind up not being able to take care of themselves. We wish it were different, but the statistics on “older bodies” are blunt: rapid deceleration from eighty on is the norm. How is this information useful?
1. It helps adult children and their aging parent understand the tactical choices they will face in the “eighties zone.” All eighty-something adults are going to need help at some point. What does that help look like? Can our aging parents give up some privacy to stay put? Are they willing to change living spaces if it gives them a better level of control over their lives?
2. It helps adult children and their aging parents understand the financial choices they will face in the “eighties zone.” All forms of additional help is going to cost money. Who will pay for it? Will it come from savings, home equity, or long-term care insurance? What is the best way to manage these costs?
3. It helps adult children and their aging parents understand the emotional choices they will face in the “eighties zone.” The loss of health is going to present some tough decisions. What situations do our aging parents want to avoid? What limits do they want place on medical intervention? When is it time to say goodbye?
These are not just questions we ask our aging parents; they are questions we need to ask ourselves. They not only give us a glimpse of our own future, but they help us feel the ‘weight” of what our parents are facing.