Did you know that 70% of Americans over the age of 75 are going to need some sort of assistance in their daily life? That’s why having a post-retirement aging plan is important for everyone to consider. In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis is joined by Allison O’Shea, owner of Openly Aging LLC. Allison is a leader in the aging industry with over 17 years of hands-on experience working with seniors and their families in the role of Executive Director for various senior living companies. Together, they talk about aging options, tips and tricks for those in caregiving roles and those approaching retirement age.
In this episode, you will learn:
- What post-retirement aging is.
- How our society contributes to ageism by not talking about aging.
- When you should start thinking about post-retirement aging.
- How to adapt aging plans as things change.
- What to do if your aging loved one is resistant to help.
- Resources for post-retirement aging.
- And more!
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s show, I brought on a special guest, Allison O’Shea. Allison is a leader in the aging industry with over 17 years of hands-on experience working with seniors and their families in the role of an Executive Director for various senior living companies. Her experience has given her the knowledge to be a reputable voice in the confusing and overwhelming world of aging.
In January 2022, Allison opened Openly Aging LLC. Through Openly Aging, Allison helps families navigate all the options and resources available to them. One of the missions of Openly Aging is to bring education to the community to be a change agent in how we talk about aging moving forward. Allison, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m very excited to be here.
I’m excited to speak with you today, too. In my role as a Financial Advisor, I’m constantly around families that are planning. But I think post-retirement aging is an area that a lot of people don’t look into until they have to. By then, it can be too late. So, let’s get started. What is aging, and what is ageism?
We live in a society where we value youth more than we value age. With that comes a lot of issues in regards to the lack of communication about aging. The fact is: 70% of Americans over the age of 75 are going to need some sort of assistance in their daily life. That could be as simple as transportation to doctor’s appointments or dog walking… or be as complex as help with daily activities of living such as showering and toileting.
There is a wide range of support that we will require as we get older, but unfortunately – due to norms in our society – we just don’t talk about it.
How We Contribute to Ageism By Not Talking About Aging
There’s a lot of fear around aging. People don’t like to think that, sometime in the future, they might be dependent on someone else. But that creates an environment of crisis.
We create ageism for ourselves because, by not talking about it, we get to a point where the people around us have to make decisions for us. We seem weak, we seem unprepared. But if we start talking about our ultimate plans before we get to that point – and we let our support system know what our goals are – we will have more control.
When is the best time to start thinking or planning for post-retirement aging?
When You Should Start Thinking about Post-Retirement Aging
There’s many layers to this, and that’s why I started Openly Aging LLC. My ultimate goal with the company is to basically be an Aging Advisor, kind of like you are a Financial Advisor. I can meet with clients as early on in their life as they want, help them create a plan, meet with them as often as they need, and then adjust the plan while they move through the aging process.
Now I do think post-retirement aging should be considered during the retirement planning process. Outside of the traveling and fun stuff you plan for your retirement years, you should ask yourself:
- Who is going to be my support system as I age?
- Where do they live?
- If they’re not local, will I move there?
If you don’t have adult children that can take on the role, you should begin thinking about forming a relationship with a care manager or somebody who will be that support system for you.
I think attaching the aging conversation to retirement planning is smart. That way, the sole focus of the conversation isn’t on the individual aging, which can be a sad conversation – or one with reluctance and pushback. Tying it to retirement – because aging is a part of that process – could allow for more people to embrace it.
You mentioned that the first step is to figure out the individual’s support system. What’s the next step in the process, is it letting that support person know?
I have a five-step plan, and identifying the support system is the first. The second would be to understand where your finances are at – and there’s no “right” place to be at.
If finances are of no concern, it allows for you to have more options. One option is a Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which is the type of community you buy into. There, they have all the levels of care – which attracts many people. But those do have 10 to 15-year wait lists.
If finances are a concern, there’s a lot of free caregiving services out there. But once again, they have 10 to 15-year wait lists.
Those are just two examples on opposite ends of the spectrum, but looking at potential options based on your finances is the next step.
Is it at that point where you begin running scenarios to say, “Okay, if this happens, this is the plan; this is how we’ll afford it or pay for it.”
What If You Want to Age in Place?
If your ultimate goal is to age in place – at your home – you should know that it can get very expensive, and oftentimes it doesn’t always work out.
If you want to stay in your home and your support system is down the street, you have to consider: does any work need to be done? Do you need to add an addition to your home, so that you can have a downstairs bedroom? How accessible is the rest of your home? Some people don’t consider the things they’ll need as they age. It’s important to have those plans in place.
Okay, so once someone irons that out, what do they do next?
The third step is adding to their knowledge. It goes along with the finance piece, but it’s important for individuals to know the options out there that they haven’t yet considered – since many people do want to age in place. This includes assisted living facilities.
The fourth step is communication. You have to let your intended support system know that they’re going to be your support system, as well as what your goals are for post-retirement aging.
Informing your support system of the role you expect them to play is important, because:
- Knowing that your parent has a plan can ease anxiety as a family member, friend or care agent.
- It allows the support system – if it is a family member or friend – to set boundaries if/where necessary.
Perhaps your support system will be there to help you walk the dog and take you to doctor’s appointments, but they can’t be your primary caregiver.
So opening up that communication is important. It allows the support system to have a general idea of the aging adult’s goals so that they can facilitate those goals as their life progresses. It allows everybody to just be on the same page.
I can see how having that communication with your support is so beneficial before the aging process progresses too far, but do you also see cases where the planning process is flipped and it’s spearheaded by the support person versus the actual person aging?
I would say the majority of my clients are the adult children and not the retirement-aged adults. But what I’m trying to do through my work and my message is inspire those adult children to consider post-retirement aging earlier than their parents. Hopefully they will be influenced to start the conversation about their goals before it’s too late.
But yes, right now, I’m usually coming into the aging process after things have already started to spiral.
Everyone can put a plan together, but things are bound to change. How should someone adapt as time progresses?
How to Adapt Aging Plans As Things Change
That relates to step five, which is: Are you listening to your support system?
Sometimes it gets to a point where your adult daughter, even if she lives down the street, doesn’t want to walk the dog four times a day anymore. Or she can no longer take you to every doctor’s appointment – perhaps because she begins creating a family of her own.
The aging loved one needs to be able to say, “Okay, I hear you, and I’m willing to make changes.” If there is proper communication throughout the whole process of retirement/post-retirement aging, making adjustments won’t feel so upsetting for the aging adult.
That makes sense. So I know you said it’s best to begin planning early, and to complete that five-step process that you’ve laid out. But, like you mentioned, you’re frequently getting involved after things have already started spiraling. In those cases, what do you do to get things back on track?
When you’re dealing with an aging loved one that is heading toward crisis, there’s so much emotion. What I can do is, with no emotional connection to the individual, facilitate the priorities. I’ll determine step one, put a plan in place, and attack it. Then, I’ll reassess with the family, get organized and move on to the next priority.
It’s really about taking control over a very overwhelming situation and looking at what’s the most important item to take care of.
I can also help the family pull in services. Many people don’t realize that the senior industry is exploding, so there are so many services out there to help and support our aging neighbors. One of my strengths is I have connections to these services and can put the proper ones in place so that the family of the aging adult will feel like they can finally breathe. That’s the ultimate goal.
What should the support system do if the aging loved one is resistant to care/help?
What to Do If Your Aging Loved One is Resistant to Help
This happens all the time. In these cases, it’s up to me to build rapport with the aging adult. I will go in and meet one-on-one with the aging loved one, and talk to them very candidly. I’ll let them know:
- Here’s the situation.
- Here’s what’s working.
- Here’s what’s not working.
And I’ll ask them:
- What is your goal?
- What are you upset about?
- What are you okay with? What are your limits?
If moving into an assisted living facility feels too scary for them, I’ll tell them, “That’s okay. We will take it one step at a time.”
It’s about validating emotions and having very direct conversations. I always say we need to give aging adults credit, they’ve experienced a lot in their lifetime – including having hard conversations. So I come to them with that respect.
Sure. What are some signs that an aging adult may need more care?
Signs an Aging Parent Needs More Help
Great question. I have a blog on my website about this. Some of the biggest signs are:
You’re having to help them more often than not.
If you see an increase in the visits you make to your parents to do small tasks, that’s a sign they may need more assistance.
If you have to make sure your parents are taking their medication – or getting to their doctor’s appointments – that’s a sign they may need more help.
You’re receiving more than two phone calls a day.
If phone calls start increasing – and that can be phone calls about anything – it’s typically an indication of loneliness or forgetfulness.
You can’t leave town without scheduling someone else to check in on the aging adult.
If you don’t feel comfortable going out of town for 24 hours or more without making plans for someone else to offer support, that’s an indication that they may need more help.
You’re worried about their eating.
If you have to worry about the aging adult getting a good meal – or if they are relying on someone to bring them a good meal – that’s a sign they need more care.
They have more than one fall every three months.
A lot of people disregard falls because they can be unavoidable as we get older, but it’s important to note the cadence. If they’re falling more than once every three months, they shouldn’t live without care/support.
Makes sense. You mentioned that the senior industry is exploding, what are some of the resources out there that can help with aging?
Resources for Post-Retirement Aging
Every community has a department on aging that offers a ton of great resources. There are also a lot of support groups, which I think should be utilized more often. There are support groups for Parkinson’s, dementia and so on. But there are also caregiving support groups.
Caregiver stress is one of the worst stresses an individual can go through. In most cases, it is more debilitating than the process of aging. It’s important for caregivers to access mental health support if they need it.
There are also companies that will come to an aging adult’s home to cook meals… there’s just so many. But the problem is, unless you know they’re out there, they can be hard to discover. And every community is different in what resources they have, so that’s why contacting a care manager or an aging specialist like myself can help you navigate these things.
The Issue of Affordability in Senior Care
Is there any government assistance available for post-retirement aging? I know there’s Medicaid, but is there anything else?
The Veterans Affairs (VA) has what’s called Aid and Attendance. It is income-based, and you have to have served in the military one day during war time to be eligible. That is also an application process, just like Medicaid. For Medicaid, you have to have pretty low assets to be considered, as you know.
But that’s about it. And that is the problem, there is a big issue with affordability in senior care. There are probably individuals and groups working on or looking into offering affordable options, but right now it is limited. That’s why planning is so important. People should try to get on those free resources as soon as possible, because they do have wait lists.
Makes sense. Alright, we’re just about out of time. Allison, I’d like to thank you for being on The Agent of Wealth Podcast today. You provided a lot of great information about aging. How can someone reach out to you to find out more about what you do?
I’d love for your listeners to visit my website, openlyaging.com, which is where I have resources such as blogs. If you want to reach out to me directly, my email is [email protected]. I’m always available to answer simple questions, or book a virtual meeting for your family if you want to start having this conversation with mom and dad.
Great. We’ll link to that in the show notes. Thanks again, Allison. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.