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Most Americans want to ‘age in place’ at home. Here’s how to plan your support systems

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We adamantly want to age in place, say experts. A recent AARP report shows that 85% of respondents 65 or older wish to stay in their current residences as long as possible.

Retirement-focused financial advisors can help with both the financial and non-financial preparations to do so.

“We’re often the only professionals people will consult when they’re planning for this phase of their lives,” said certified financial planner Howard Pressman, partner with Egan, Berger and Weiner in Vienna, Virginia. “I saw my clients struggling [with this issue] and I wanted to help them think about the process of aging.”

Helping retirees fill critical caregiver roles

Pressman has held what he called “very pointed conversations” with clients, especially those without children, about who will fill critical roles to help them age at home. These roles include decision-makers for health issues, drivers to doctor appointments if clients are ill or injured, household helpers for routine home maintenance and friends for regular socialization.

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“My goal is always to help my clients enjoy a happy retirement — mind, body and wallet,” he said.

“A lot of the [retirement-related] conversations we have with clients are around the non-financial aspects,” said Jason Sapirstein, CFP and president of Eliot Rose Wealth Management in West Warwick, Rhode Island. “You can’t talk about money without talking about life.

“You can’t separate the two.”

He refers clients to aging-in-place resources, such as Medicare brokers, discounted prescription drug services and a personal concierge service that does a wide variety of errands and handyman services. Sapirstein also instructs clients on how to use Zoom and rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft.

He encourages clients to build maintenance and financial teams and modify their homes five to 10 years before their estimated need, to avoid later disruption.

Some advisors deepen their non-financial expertise with advanced degrees. Sandy Adams, CFP and partner with the Center for Financial Planning in Southfield, Michigan, has a master’s degree in gerontology and serves as the subject-matter expert for the practice. One of her responsibilities is to put together an aging plan for clients that focuses on housing (as they age), care (how and by whom), finances and personal legacy (how they wish to share values, stories, photos, etc.).

Adams also refers clients to support services, such as:

  • Licensed professional advocates who help with health management and advocacy and can act as health-care proxies for clients who have no local friends or family
  • Local Area Agencies on Aging and community senior centers — non-profit agencies that help people navigate local resources
  • Local senior transportation programs
  • Home modification companies
None of us knows when that event might happen that will cause us to suddenly need help.
Sandy Adams
partner with the Center for Financial Planning

When should people start this kind of planning?

“The sooner, the better,” Adams said. “None of us knows when that event might happen that will cause us to suddenly need help.”

“Another very important question to consider is, ‘Do you trust your decision-maker to do what you want if your situation changes?'” said Patti B. Black, CFP and partner at Bridgeworth Financial Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “Would they be influenced by different financial ramifications?”

Navigating ins, outs of aging in place with advisors

Financial advisors can guide clients through these and other questions, such as the type of future care they want and end-of-life care, she said.

Black, who cared for her own elderly parents, refers clients to professionals such as:

  • In-home senior care agencies, who conduct background checks on potential caregivers
  • Consultants to help clients choose a facility (if necessary) who are familiar with a care community’s quality of care, personality and reputation
  • Geriatric care managers, who act as private social workers, who do in-home evaluations, offer programs, provide care giving oversight, medication management, advocacy and more.

“It’s important to communicate to clients that there is a list of resources available when the time comes,” Black said. “Let your decision-maker know that they should reach out to [your advisor]. “We’ve had a lot of experience with our own families and other clients and our goal is to establish a [helping] relationship with you before there’s a crisis.”

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