These days it’s certainly not unusual to think about adult children moving to another community – or another state – to be close to their aging parents. Traditionally, the image in our minds used to be that of a couple in their late 40s or early 50s moving to be near a Mom or Dad in their mid-70s. But based on a just-published article on the authoritative Kaiser Health News website, that image may be about twenty years off. New data suggests that, for a growing number of families, the “children” doing the moving are seniors themselves, many in their early 70s who are moving to be closer to parent well into their 90s.
They’re called “Boomerang Seniors,” and they’re part of what Kaiser calls “a growing group of seniors with a living parent.” You can click here to read about this surprising trend, one with unexpected implications for many retirees who might not have anticipated spending their own retirement years as full time or part time caregivers. “Expectations,” says Kaiser’s Sharon Jayson, the article’s author, “are altered amid the new reality of longer life expectancy and growing numbers of aged Americans.”
In corroboration of this observation about increased longevity, Jayson offers this quote from the science website Nature, expanding on the idea of longer human life spans. “It seems that death is being delayed because people are reaching old age in better health,” says the quote. “Research by demographers, epidemiologists and other biomedical researchers suggests that further progress is likely to be made in advancing the frontier of survival — and healthy survival — to even greater ages.” Translation: you and I are statistically much more likely than ever to live longer – and so are our parents. If we become their caregivers, this can have a dramatic impact on planning for our own retirement future.
As Jayson points out in the article, “Caregiving for an older family member is not what it was when first studied and coined as the ‘sandwich generation.’” That remains the commonly-used label for people “sandwiched” between caring for aging parents and raising young children. “Now it’s the children who are on the verge of retirement or who have retired and are still having responsibility of older parents.” For some families this might entail aging adults and their very old parent living in very close proximity: in different areas of the same continuing care retirement facility, for example, or living in the same apartment building, or sharing portions of the same single-family home. No matter what the particulars are, some retirees with responsibility for a very old parent are finding their own plans for “retirement freedom” significantly curtailed: there may be a financial drain on the retirees, and there certainly are time constraints, potentially restricting the chance to travel or volunteer. That can be tough to do when you can’t be away from Mom or Dad for more than a few hours.
Kathrin Boerner, a gerontologist from the University of Massachusetts, states in the Kaiser article that this picture of very old parents being cared for – even part-time – by aging youngsters is a “recurring theme.” The very old, she says, are the fastest-growing segment of the population in many developing countries, with a projected increase of more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2030 in the number of people over age 80. “Two thirds of these very old have advanced-aged children, who typically serve as their primary caregiver” says Boerner. “Even if their children are not direct caregivers, they still must monitor their parents’ welfare.” Since other studies have shown that one-quarter of today’s 65 year olds can expect to live into their 90s, this challenge is only going to increase.
“With the demographics we’re looking at, I refer to it as ‘aging together,’” writes gerontologist Boerner. “For a lot of people, (retirement) is the time — if you’re in good enough health — when you hope for a time of greater freedom. You’re past all the other caregiving tasks and, for most people, they can dedicate (their energies) to their own needs.” But, Boerner adds, “For those with very old parents, it just doesn’t happen.”
The best solution to help meet the potential pressures and challenges of retirement head-on is a well thought-out retirement plan. Aging, as we always say, is a family affair, and that means your family needs to know – and support – all of your wishes as you grow older. Beyond finances, this includes housing, deciding how and where you want to live. It includes your legal documents, which means much more than your last will and testament. Your estate plan will be meaningless if it doesn’t take your medical needs into account, because few things will derail your plans like a medical crisis for which you have not prepared. Is there a type of retirement plan that includes all of these facets? Fortunately there is.
At AgingOptions we proudly offer a unique and comprehensive approach to retirement planning called a LifePlan. Once you have prepared your LifePlan, often including a series of family conferences to make certain everyone close to you is on the same page, you’ll be prepared for a fruitful and secure retirement. You’ll be able to protect your assets while ensuring that you won’t become a burden to those you love. It’s easy to find out more – and there’s no obligation whatsoever: simply plan now to attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. Invest just a few hours, and bring your questions – and your adult children if they’ll attend with you. It will open your eyes to the power of this unique, powerful planning strategy.
For a list of upcoming seminars, including online registration, click here, or call us during the week and we’ll be happy to assist you. Additionally, if you feel it’s time for a family conference to review your estate plans with your loved ones, we can definitely guide you. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon.
(originally reported at www.khn.org)