Aging Options

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Having a purpose makes having a life possible

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Rosa Finnegan’s birthday was yesterday.  She retired last year from her job at Vita Needle, a medical needle manufacturing plant.  “I always felt that I could work forever,” Finnegan said in an NPR interview.  “It made me feel like I was a worthwhile person.  I liked the companionship of people around me, and we’re all working.  I really feel like a dope.  I should never have stopped.  That was the sorriest day of my life.  Here I am, at the end of my life, in a nursing home.” 

Wait, you might think.  A nursing home?  Why a nursing home?  She just retired.  Well, I’ll tell you something I didn’t disclose before.  Rosa Finnegan turned 102 yesterday.  And probably like a lot of people still do, Finnegan thought her next step was to go to a nursing home since, well, since she’s old.  But there are drawbacks to going to a nursing home when you don’t need a nursing home. 

“As nice as this place is, there’s an undercurrent — it’s sad, also,” said Finnegan.  I get up now in the morning, and I’ll say to myself, ‘What am I gonna do all day now?'”

And that’s the drawback.  People need a purpose.  There has to be a reason to get up every morning and a reason to celebrate every day.  If you only prepare yourself to reach a certain age or a certain level of success, then what happens when you have reached your goal?  If you have family, retirement provides an incredible time to play a larger and more significant role in the lives of grandchildren or even great grandchildren.  Without family, get invested in your community.  Invest your time and effort into something meaningful so that you should you need help later, you’ll have already sown the seeds for that care.

In 2010, there were 53,364 people in the United States that were at least 100 years of age.  It’s one of our fastest growing demographics having grown by over 65 percent in the last 30 years.  Overwhelmingly, (82.8 percent) centenarians are women but unlike men who reach that age and generally live with others in a household, women of that age generally live in a nursing home.  If you are a woman, do you just want to fall into living life in a nursing home because everyone else does?  If you are a man, what is it about being a woman that makes aging something they do more successfully?

Here’s an interview of Finnegan when she was younger (101) and therefore still working.

I wrote an article recently about how financial professionals now look at planning from the perspective of trying to prepare their clients financially for the challenges of living to 105.  But life isn’t all about money.  If you live to 105, which is a very real possibility, what will you do to keep the older you engaged, active, challenged and motivated so that living that long won’t be drudgery?  Where do you see yourself not just financially but where will you live (here’s some suggestions to consider for living arrangements) and what will you do to fill the hours between when you wake up and when you go to sleep?  Just as you spent time planning for a career or a family or the house you would buy, invest time in planning what you want of your life when you are 90, 95, 100 and yes even 105 because we are all living longer and it really isn’t living if you are bored to death.


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