by Nancy I. Sanders
I recently saw my friend Margaret at the store. “How are you?” I asked.
“Exhausted,” she replied. “I’m moving my mother. It’s taken days to get her affairs in order.” Margaret sighed deeply. “I’ve had to do everything.”
How often have we heard this story? Friends, co-workers or perhaps ourselves are overwhelmed with caring for elderly parents.
We might not be able to do much to change current situations, but we can start planning today to manage our own lives when we’re older. Thinking through potential problems and preparing mentally while we’re younger provides a less threatening environment for making important decisions later. By looking ahead, we can effectively plan to use our time, talents and finances well.
Plan your finances
Consider the many strategies available for financial security; don’t rely on someone else to know it all. Register for free seminars, and learn how to protect your assets for you and your family. Use the Internet to determine if classes are offered in your area. Type in keywords such as retirement planning or long-term care for elderly, and a wealth of sites will appear. Look for credible Web sites such as those from major insurance companies or those that are government sponsored.
Familiarize yourself with the different levels of care available for different stages of life and the costs involved. Sign up for free brochures from the IRS, Social Security or the Administration on Aging to explore options about investments, benefits and resources to help you successfully plan for retirement years.
Leave a legacy
Think about the spiritual heritage you want to impart to the next generation. Years ago I knew an older woman who invited her teenage granddaughter to a Bible study for teens in her home. Her granddaughter’s friends tagged along and found the woman had a listening heart and time to show them how to search God’s Word for answers to their struggles.
I know another elderly woman who is confined to a wheelchair. She isn’t able to attend certain church functions, but she’s discovered she can pass on her faith by sending handwritten letters to prisoners. Look for ways you, too, can pass on a spiritual inheritance and influence generations for Christ.
Don’t let the fear of loneliness or boredom cloud your vision when you think of retiring or growing older. Look for new ways to socialize and be part of community. Plan to volunteer at your favorite organization when you retire. It will be the perfect season of your life to become trained as a lay counselor at your church, sign up as a docent at your local museum or help out each week in the neighborhood elementary school. Determine to participate in a club that you’ve always wanted to join.
Accept the fact that growing older has its limitations. Eyesight often weakens, making activities such as driving at night impossible. Plan now to stop driving at a safe age so you won’t become a danger to yourself or others.
Falling down steps is also a serious threat to weakening, older bones. If moving to a single-story home is out of the question, design plans for your house today to make it possible to eventually live on the main level.
Communicate your wishes
Talk with your spouse or your extended family about important details such as relocation — if and when you should do it. Would it help family dynamics at some point to move closer to your children? Would it be more practical to downsize your home? Should you relocate to a nearby community that provides senior meals, medical facilities and budget transportation?
If relocation isn’t an option and senior amenities are few in your hometown, volunteer to organize and implement services for the elderly. If the time comes when you might need these services, they’ll be in place.
By making changes in your lifestyle while you still feel young, you’ll avoid facing some painful decisions and transitions. Looking realistically toward your future, your twilight years can be met with confidence and a joyful outlook.
Nancy I. Sanders and her husband are preparing now for their retirement years in Southern California.
This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
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