The Challenges of Longevity


The Challenges of Longevity | Questions our long lives raise & answers for your future. 
by: Sound Options 

We are enjoying a longest lives in history; however, our longevity brings with it new challenges that will impact our health, finances, work, and family life. To understand this societal shift, we must begin here, at the family level. Eldercare is not just an individual issue. For every elderly loved one, there are often spouses, adult children, and other family invested in meeting the needs and challenges that individual faces. We are beginning to see generations with new questions, such as, “How will I care for my parent and my children in the same household?”, “Do I want to spend 20-35 years in retirement, or should I keep working?”, “How will we pay for long-term care over the next 10 years?” These are all good questions and all relatively new questions for us as an aging society.

As a Geriatric Care Management and Home Care company, we see eldercare experts like ourselves playing a crucial role in equipping families with the education and the care they need to face the challenges ahead of them. Quality of life at any age begins with intentionality and having good answers in the future begins with asking good questions now.

Major Challenges Facing Families
Some of the major questions that come out of the challenges of longevity are:

  • How will we spend the extra time and maintain quality of life?
  • When should long-term planning/ family conversations begin?
  • How can we financially prepare for long-term care needs?
  • What do I want my end-of-life healthcare to look like, what values/wishes?
  • And many, many more.

10 Steps to Prepare for a Bright Future  
What can you do to prepare yourself and your family? Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:

No. 1 :: Talk Early and Talk Often.  Plan for and schedule regular family meetings. Sometimes the hardest part is getting through that first conversation. Decide on important questions or topics to cover during that meeting and send them out in advance, giving people time to process on their own before articulating their views and making decisions.  

No. 2 :: Make a Self-Care Plan. Dr. Butler, author of The Longevity Revolution: The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life, says individuals play perhaps the greatest role in taking care of their own health and wellness as they age. Take the time to learn how to care for yourself well (body, mind, and spirit) so you’ll have a routine established as you face difficult responsibilities and eldercare stresses. For the elderly loved one, a consistent self-care plan that doesn’t neglect regular physical activity and management of chronic diseases will help increase health and longevity. 

No. 3 :: Seek Professional Guidance. It’s hard to know what you don’t know. Consulting with a geriatric care manager, (RN or MSW), is a great starting point. As eldercare experts, they know the pitfalls of advance care planning and can help navigate the healthcare system, family dynamics, and resistant loved ones and put a personalized plan in place. They can provide as much or as little services as are needed.  

No. 4 :: Financially Prepare Through Saving. One of the biggest piece of advice caregivers give to others is start saving earlier. A Health Savings Account is a great place to start your rainy day fund. One of the largest misconceptions is that Medicare will pay for long term care services. It does not. You may also look into Long Term Care Insurance that will cover out of pockets expenses for long term care needs. Think about who you’d like to be your DPOA for finances and speak to them about your accounts/ assets. Assets that are unknown to your advocate may go unused for your healthcare needs.   

No. 5 :: Take Notes. Learn from your experience of caring for an elderly loved one and use that hard-earned knowledge to shape what your own “elderhood” will look like in the future.

No. 6 :: Train the Next Generation. If you are playing a role in caring for a parent, appropriately expose your children and/or grandchildren to the process, experiences, and challenges you are facing. By doing this you are educating future generations by making old age visible, personal, and nuanced. 

No. 7 :: Talk Candidly. Tell your friends and loved about your experiences with long life. As we live into our extra 30 years, we must shape a vision of what this new stage in our lifespan looks like for ourselves and others.

No. 8 :: Educate Yourself about Dementia/ Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. With 5.4 million Americans living with the disease, you will most likely know someone who has been touched by it. Help your community understand that it is a disease and not a normal part of aging. Advocate for increased research until a cure is found.

No. 9 :: Visit Your HR Department. Ask about eldercare resources that your company may provide as part of their Employee Assistance Program. Educate yourself on your FMLA rights and have discussions with your manager regarding challenges you face balancing eldercare and work responsibilities.

No. 10 :: Engage in your Life. Encourage yourself and your aging loved one to actively participate in loved hobbies, social gatherings, and other emotionally and mentally stimulating activities that make life good. This will help keep stress and depression at bay during challenging times and fill years with purpose. Quality of life at any age begins with being intentional about doing the things you love and making decisions that reflect the values and wish you want for your life.

Published on February 28, 2013.