There are hundreds of articles published every year telling seniors how to evaluate their housing choices, and many of them are helpful. But we think this article from Kiplinger may be the first one we’ve seen that bases its questions on something as simple as ice cream. We’re referring to this clever idea as “The Ice Cream Quiz.”
Financial adviser Thomas West wrote the Kiplinger article to prove a point: sometimes the best way to deal with big ideas is to use simple concepts we can all relate to. And after all, who can’t relate to getting a good dish or cone filled with your favorite ice cream flavor? Therein lies the profound question behind West’s article: when deciding where to live in retirement, it might be wise to consider something as simple as where and how to get an ice cream cone as you evaluate your options. Let’s take a look at what he means.
Housing Choices Reflect Our Individual Preferences
“As with anything in life, our individual preferences and circumstances will vary,” West writes. “Some may want to ‘age in place,’ while others may need to consider other housing options.” We’ve written the same many times here on the Blog – your housing choice has to reflect your preferences and needs, not someone else’s.
“The ability to age in place — or live in your own home or community as you age — is based on factors,” West continues, “such as health, home accessibility, social support and financial considerations. It’s important for individuals, couples and families to carefully assess their own unique situation and make informed decisions about aging in place or other housing options based on specific needs and circumstances.”
But West asks a simple question, one he takes from research done by Joseph F. Coughlin, Ph.D., director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. Coughlin, profiled in this Barron’s article, asks, “How will you get an ice cream cone in retirement?” After all, says West, everyone loves ice cream. Not only is it a tasty treat, it’s also a useful metaphor. But the answer to that simple question reveals some profound insights.
We give you (drum roll, please) “The Ice Cream Quiz.” As you’ll note, behind the frivolous façade, there’s a serious issue for you to consider.
Quiz Question #1: Home Accessibility
“Can you easily move around inside and leave your home to get ice cream?”
West asks a cute question with serious intent. “Most American homes weren’t built with the needs of aging seniors in mind,” he warns. We wrote about this on the Blog just a few weeks back.
“Safety and accessibility become more critical as you age,” adds West. “Home modifications like removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, widening doorways and adding ramps are just a few items you may need for intentional aging in place. If you are considering moving, you need to look for a home designed to accommodate both your current and potential future mobility and accessibility needs.”
If you miss this one, that jaunt to the kitchen – or out the front door – for ice cream can easily become dangerous.
Quiz Question #2: Social Support
“Who can you share an ice cream cone with?”
This question reflects a very real danger for those aging in place alone. “As we learned during COVID,” West writes, “social isolation is detrimental to your health. Intentional aging in place requires developing and expanding your network of family, friends, neighbors and community resources like social clubs, senior centers and religious communities.”
Whether you plan to move or stay put, you need to be aware of the social support networks in the community where you live. You can start your search by visiting the website of the Administration for Community Living and searching for an Area Agency on Aging near you.
Quiz Question #3: Healthcare Access
“How often should you eat ice cream? Hint: Ask your doctor.”
“Access to healthcare is crucial for older adults,” says West. As you plan whether to move or stay in your current home, “consider the proximity and availability of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities and pharmacies.” If you were to ask Rajiv Nagaich, he would add that senior adults need to find a geriatrician to serve as their primary health care provider. Once you have the medical team you want, staying close to them has definite advantages.
This is particularly true if you’re relocating to another state or region entirely. “If you’re moving, research the healthcare services available under your insurance plan to ensure you can continue to access your plan or find out if you will need new insurance and doctors,” West observes. (If possible, try to find a doctor who likes ice cream.)
Quiz Question #4: Transportation
“How will you get to the ice cream shop?”
Depending on your community, public transportation can either be readily available or infrequent and costly. Access to transit should be a big part of your decision about where to live, for getting ice cream – and everything else. But amazingly, 45 percent of Americans lack access to public transit.
“Some seniors need to give up driving for their safety and the safety of others,” says West. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your independence and trips to the ice cream shop. Whether you are intentionally aging in place or moving, consider the availability of public transportation, rides from family and friends, the walkability of the neighborhood, proximity to essential services such as grocery stores and access to transportation alternatives.” These can include such services as ride-sharing, Go-Go Grandparent or senior transportation services.
Quiz Question #5: Financial Considerations
“Can you afford to eat ice cream regularly?”
This clearly isn’t about ice cream per se – it’s about your ability to enjoy simple pleasures in retirement, whether they’re “a spontaneous indulgence or a weekly occurrence,” as West puts it. Your housing choice can have a huge impact, good or bad, on your degree of financial comfort in retirement.
“Carefully assess your financial situation when deciding whether to age in place or move,” West recommends. “Consider factors such as the cost of home modifications, property taxes, maintenance costs and potential changes in your financial situation, such as increased healthcare and long-term care costs. If you are moving, research the cost of living in the new area, including housing costs, taxes and home care costs.” (These can easily top $5,000 per month according to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care survey.)
This is another area where Rajiv Nagaich can help you. He has created a powerful tool to make it possible for you to gauge whether you will be able to live out your life in your own home or have to be forced into institutional care. You can take the “Home Fitness Quiz” at Path to Happily Ever After. It’s a great asset to your future planning.
Quiz Question #6: Personal Health and Care Needs
“Can someone help you enjoy ice cream if you lose your physical or cognitive capacity?”
Enjoying the little things in life can become much harder as you age, and especially as we experience physical and mental decline. As West puts it, “It’s essential to consider both your current and potential future care needs.”
According to the U.S. government’s Long-Term Care website, says West’s article, 70 percent of adults 65 and older will need long-term care in their lifetime, with men typically needing 2.2 years of care and women requiring 3.7 years. As you age, you’ll likely require additional support for activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation.
Choosing where you’ll live as you age requires planning, says West. You may need the services of Meals on Wheels. You’ll need access to home maintenance services. Of course, you’ll probably deal with a growing cadre of healthcare providers and home healthcare services, not to mention family caregivers, long-term care services and senior living communities.
“It’s essential to assess both your current and future needs for home accessibility, social support, healthcare access, transportation, financial considerations and personal health and care needs,” West advises. “Additionally, don’t neglect your emotional well-being in your future planning. Consider factors such as estate planning, advance care directives and long-term care insurance.”
What About Your Family?
Rajiv Nagaich has said it a thousand times: “Aging is a family affair.” With his Ice Cream Quiz, West seems to agree. “Share your plans with family members, beneficiaries, healthcare professionals, elder law attorneys and financial advisers in your life,” he urges, “so they can carry out your healthcare, legal and financial wishes if you become incapacitated.”
And here’s West’s final tip: “Tell them your favorite ice cream flavor so they can bring you some when getting together.” A dish of rocky road sounds pretty good about now!
Breaking News: Rajiv’s New Book is Here!
We have big news! The long-awaited book by Rajiv Nagaich, called Your Retirement: Dream or Disaster, has been released and is now available to the public. As a friend of AgingOptions, we know you’ll want to get your copy and spread the word.
You’ve heard Rajiv say it repeatedly: 70 percent of retirement plans will fail. If you know someone whose retirement turned into a nightmare when they were forced into a nursing home, went broke paying for care, or became a burden to their families – and you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you – then this book is must-read.
Through stories, examples, and personal insights, Rajiv takes us along on his journey of expanding awareness about a problem that few are willing to talk about, yet it’s one that results in millions of Americans sleepwalking their way into their worst nightmares about aging. Rajiv lays bare the shortcomings of traditional retirement planning advice, exposes the biases many professionals have about what is best for older adults, and much more.
Rajiv then offers a solution: LifePlanning, his groundbreaking approach to retirement planning. Rajiv explains the essential planning steps and, most importantly, how to develop the framework for these elements to work in concert toward your most deeply held retirement goals.
Your retirement can be the exciting and fulfilling life you’ve always wanted it to be. Start by reading and sharing Rajiv’s important new book. And remember, Age On, everyone!
(originally reported at www.kiplinger.com)