“Sandwich Generation” typically refers to adults with children at home and aging parents. As we live longer, it also applies to adults who are grandparents themselves with parents in their 80s, 90s and beyond. Navigating and talking about the changing needs of everyone can be difficult, but necessary.
Q: My husband and I are in our late 50’s and starting to plan for retirement. I guess they call us the sandwich generation because we are caregivers for our aging parents and still support one of our three children who is still living at home and finishing college. We know there are financial considerations, but we are not sure what else we need to consider as we start to plan for future changes. What tips can you give us as we start this process?
A: George Patton once said, “A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.” We know that finances are going to be the driving force of your dreams, since the type of lifestyle you choose will be supported by your income and assets, so the first step always is to meet with a financial professional who can help you map out your future. But assuming that you have your finances in order, the next steps require soul-searching and communication. Most of us have specific expectations of how our retirement years are going to unfold, and now is the time to talk with loved ones and do some research to find out if your plan will remain just a dream or become reality. Here are some thought provoking conversation starters as you plan for your future.
- Future Expectations Take time as a couple to write out how you envision retirement. You may be surprised to find out that your spouse wants beachfront property in Mexico while you are hoping for the security of a retirement community in Seattle. This is a great opportunity to explore how you can meld the two dreams into one.
- Lifestyle Expectations Many retirees are shocked to discover that the value of their retirement assets may require living in a smaller space. Talk about what simplifying your life really means: smaller spaces, less material possessions, and maybe even a streamlined social life.
- Health Expectations You may have heard the statistic that nearly 7 out of 10 Americans over age 65 will need long-term care. In a study by Genworth Financial, slightly more than half of all respondents reported that their greatest fear regarding a long-term care illness or event was being a burden on their family. In fact, they reported being five times more concerned about being a burden than about dying. These pro active steps can help:
- Invest early in accessibility features in your house: stairless living spaces, walk-in showers and other safety features can lengthen your time in your home.
- Consider the possibility of cognitive decline. Talk with family about how you want to be cared for should there arrive a day when you are not able to do so yourself.
- Leave no guesswork for loved ones by having both a financial and health power of attorney in place.
- Social Considerations Aging in place can feel like prison when you no longer drive, and contact with friends and family diminishes. How will you manage alone? In a 1998 Harvard School of Public Health study, researchers found that “social participation and integration have profound effects on health and well-being of people during their lifetimes. We know from previous studies that people with many social ties have lower mortality rates and have mounting evidence that strong social networks can help to prevent declines in memory. As our society ages and has more and more older people, it will be important to promote their engagement in social and community life to maintain their well-being.”
At a doctor’s appointment recently, the physician said, “My job is to get you to live to 100 years old.” With longevity in mind, the perfect retirement plan will necessitate forecasting, preparation, flexibility, and eventually modifying your plans to fit the circumstances. Take the time today to map out your dreams for tomorrow.
Kellie Moeller has worked in the senior housing industry in the Northwest for more than a decade. With an insider’s view and a passion for serving seniors, she gives a fresh perspective on aging. Email your questions to TimetoTalk@3rdActMagazine.com or mail your questions to Time to Talk, 3rd Act Magazine, 81 Canal Lane, Brinnon, WA 98320.