Later in Life: Who Has Your Back?
by Irwin Lengel
This Stage of Our Life
As I sit here enjoying my first cup of coffee for the day, staring out the window watching a squirrel scavenge the feed from the bird feeder set there by my son to feed the myriad of birds that frequent the site, my mind wanders off thinking of the future and wondering just where we will be say, five or ten years from now.
We have been taught from little on up that you go to school, get a good education, get a job, marry and have children, succeed at your job, retire, and subsequently die. But one thing I do not remember being told or discussed during these life events is who will look out for us, once retired, when we are unable to care for ourselves? In other words – between the retiring and dying stage!
My father died at an early age (mid-fifties) and never got to enjoy retirement. My mother was able to manage on her own for many years afterward with little assistance from my siblings (we had already moved to Florida and only got back home once a year). My mother lived to be in her mid-eighties and was fortunate enough to secure living quarters in a high-rise senior citizens home where she was able to care for herself for most of her retired life.
But what of us that chose for whatever reason to spread our wings and become adventurous at a young age, leaving not only the city where our siblings live but the state as well. In addition, we have taught our young that the sky is their umbrella so to speak and as such the children no longer grow up and find jobs settling down and raising a family in the same city as their parents – they move! Such is the case with us as our children live at different ends of the country. How does one plan for our senior years in that environment?
To be quite frank – the decision is hard. Fact is that due to the sheer economics of todays’ times, not all children grow up to be financially secure. Oh, I am not saying they are poor and destitute. What I am saying is that in today’s economy, making ends meet for one family is a goal unto itself let alone taking on
the role of caretaker for one’s parents. But many children are assuming that role today in spite of their own current financial status.
How then is the matter resolved? See where the question is coming from? I would venture to say that first and foremost, if the parents still have all their mental faculties, they should be included in the planning process including where they want to live and how they want to live out the balance of their lives should the day come that they can no longer live on their own. This will require dialogue between the parents and siblings and each situation will be different.
What if one sibling has both the resources and finances to take in the parents while the others do not? What then? Here again is where, in my opinion, the parents should have the final word. The end result here is to make the parents’ final days of retirement both comfortable and less stressful, without I might add, not adding stress to the siblings life as well.
Most of my adult life I have tried to look ahead and thus be prepared for whatever life tends to throw my way. True, there have been times that unforeseen events slip in there and throw a monkey wrench in our plans – we all have those type incidents – but the fact is that being vigilant in the way we live our lives every day enables us to plan for the next stage of our lives.
Being at the stage of life we are in, one begins to think about how we would like to spend our last years. You know – those years when we are no longer able to get up and go like we used to. Remember the response given by the husband when caught by his wife looking at other women: “Hey, I am old – I am not dead!” Same philosophy, we may be old and not quite as active physically and/or mentally but we are not dead. We don’t want to be a burden on anyone but do hope that we can be where someone – as they say in U. S. Military jargon – has our backs!
What about you? How prepared are you for what the future might hold once you reach such a stage in your life?
Until next time!