By Steven Joshua Samuel JD, MBA, AIF®
The Economist magazine recently published a story that summarizes some of the issues that all of us have to address to age in place well, meaning, live where and how we prefer to live:
“In 1965, ANDRÉ-FRANÇOIS RAFFRAY, a 47-year-old lawyer in southern France, made the deal of a lifetime. Charmed by an apartment in Arles, he persuaded the widow living there that if he paid her 2,500 francs (then about $500) a month until she died, she would leave it to him in her Will. Since she was already 90, it seemed like a safe bet. Thirty years later, Mr. Raffray was dead and the widow, Jeanne Louise Calment, was still going strong. When she eventually passed away at 122, having become the world’s oldest person, the Raffray family had paid her more than twice the value of the house.”
The widow Calment achieved a measure of security for her housing and income needs, both key requirements of aging in place well, according to the MIT AgeLab. Here are the rest of the issues the MIT AgeLab believes she needed to address and how technology can help:
The arrangement between Jeanne Louise and Andre-Francois made it possible for her to stay in her residence, assuming that $500 each month was enough at both the beginning and end of the 30 years she lived. Using a historically reasonable annual inflation rate of 3%, ten years after their deal, Jeanne Louise would have needed $750 monthly and at the 20th year, $1000. So, either $500 more than met Jeanne Louise’s needs at the beginning, or her standard of living declined quite a bit, unless she had other sources of income. If she had investments to supplement what Andre-Francois paid her, she hopefully would have educated herself sufficiently to invest in both stocks and bonds, to keep up with inflation.
If Jeanne Louise hoped to live out her years in her own home, she would need more than money. Even routine home maintenance and repairs can be a challenge at any age. Hopefully, Jeanne Louise had friends and family to help her find qualified and trustworthy plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople. Today, this task can be helped by technology, like HomeAdvisor or similar software applications (apps) as well as trusted family, neighbors and friends.
Staying mobile makes it possible and easier to age in place well. Mobility means everything from navigating without significant help from bedroom to breakfast and shower, to shopping and getting to appointments and social events. Losing the ability to drive a car does not have to feel like a catastrophic loss as it did in the past, with the availability of ride sharing companies such an Uber and Lyft and soon, self-driving vehicles. Being open and able to use these technologies can avoid loss of social contact and ability to live independently as personal health permits.
For those able to adapt to advances in technology, healthcare is changing dramatically. Software applications enhance communication between patients and physicians and other health care providers. Apps can monitor and track health conditions, order prescriptions to be delivered to our homes and keep us motivated to continue fitness programs.
Maintaining social contacts is mentioned as a key factor in virtually every study of people who age in place well. Even when physical mobility or distance to friends and family are a challenge, Facebook and numerous other apps are a connecting bridge.
Putting it all Together
Successfully managing financial security, housing, transportation, healthcare and social connections requires finding trustworthy information and resources in a wide variety of fields. This is easier said than done and it is often hard to know where to find help. A good place to start is an estate planning or financial professional you have come to trust. Over years of helping families address personal and family issues, estate planning and financial professionals often develop knowledge or resources in all of these fields.
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