When I’m 64, the popular Beatles song from nearly 50 years ago (!!!), made 64 seem old. When I’m 64 happened to me last Friday! As I start counting down my approach to Medicare eligibility, I’ve naturally started a year in preview. What do I need to accomplish before 65 hits? That’s what inspired our April forum, Aging (Parents):101.
I’m thinking about finances, how to talk to my kids about what I want, and what I want them to do as I age. So topics include paying for aging, critical conversations and advocating for a senior loved one. Keynote speaker Dr. Marilyn Gugliucci will shake us all up with her research on how we think and talk about aging.
First off, I want to be financially secure, and I’ll tell you why. The recent huge Medicaid cuts voted in by the administration will have a devastating impact on needy elderly in Maine, especially those who want to stay out of nursing homes. The American Health Care Act cut $834 billion out of Medicaid over the next ten years, and the FY 2018 budget proposed by President Trump cuts an additional $610 billion over the next ten years. We live in a state where home care is hard to find and harder to pay for. Medicaid payments for nursing home care are mandatory (although number of beds etc. isn’t, so waiting lists are longer than many people’s remaining lifespans already). Medicaid payment for home and community care is not mandatory. With Medicaid funding cut so deeply, the thinner slices of the Medicaid pie won’t buy much home care in ten years, and I suspect that Medicaid beds in nursing homes will be in perilously short supply. So that means I need to be knowledgeable about how to pay for aging.
I need to remain healthy, too. Even though I paid into Medicare for almost 50 years of my working life, my Medicare “insurance” and what it covers is also open to review and cost-cutting measures.
When I’m 64
When ‘m 64, I need to take charge of my health and fitness a little more. I tell my clients all the time that if they can’t afford Long Term Care insurance, they must afford a membership at the gym. The only way we’re going to stay out of medical trouble (which leads to financial trouble) is to stay healthy. That means more exercise with my legs and less exercise with my fork.
When I’m 64, I need to work at maintaining my social networks. I need to reach out to the kids more, reach out to my friends more, volunteer more and take action more. England recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness after international studies showed that being lonely is as bad for you as smoking 16 cigarettes a day or being obese. Elders get isolated as their mobility lessens and social circles shrink. I am not lonely now (though I work alone) and I need to make sure that I maintain the relationships that keep me connected.
This is also the year to get my paperwork house in order, to have those difficult conversations about end-of-life wishes, independence and health. I’m going to use Aging (Parents):101 to address some of the topics I’ve been thinking about as I age into my retirement years. I’ve finally faced that it’s too late to discover what I want to be when I’m grown up. I have to discover how I want to age, and learn some tools that will help me. In my case, I don’t have any parents left who need help with aging. I’m the parent in this equation, who wants to remain independent.
We all think that we’ll be just like we are at 64 when we’re 74 or 84 or 94, and that just ain’t true. Now is the time to change up some habits and rethink some positions and redo some calculations and refocus on what will keep us happy and healthy. Will I have another 30 years? I am not guaranteed another 30 minutes. I always thought when I was 64 I’d have all the answers, and I only have more questions.
But at least I’m now at the age where I don’t feel stupid asking questions! I’m 64 years old, for God’s sake! No one else is going to motivate me to move more, eat less, or choose better in every aspect of my life. Now’s the time. When I’m 64.