Category Archives: The Talk

The Talk: A Start

This weekend, we began “the talk” with our children. It was easy, really, since there wasn’t anything dire to discuss. We had given them copies of our advance directives and health care proxies over the summer, and there was nothing new on that front.

Instead, we used the conversation to give our daughters a general overview of our financial situation and to talk over some of the housing options we’ve been considering for our later senior years.

Many folks we’ve known have kept vital financial  information to themselves, right to the very end.  I knew nothing of my parents’ finances until after my father was gone. Sally, down in Florida, whom we’ve written of before, kept a home refinancing secret from her own attorney. Perhaps she was embarrassed about borrowing money to remodel her kitchen, but the refinancing made a mess of a trust the attorney had set up and vastly complicated the settlement of her estate.

Anyway, we thought it important for our daughters to know that we’re unlikely to be a financial burden to them, just to help them in making their own plans and decisions. We even have long-term care insurance, which I’ve never been sure is a good investment — but we’re not going to stop paying the premiums at this late date. If we were likely to become a financial burden at some point, it would have been important for the daughters to know that too.

With respect to housing and location, nothing was decided, since we’re still very much up in the air ourselves. We talked about how it would be unwise of us to continue living out in the country much past seventy-five. A continuing care community or senior living facility could knock a hole in any legacy if it had a big upfront registration fee, but we might have to go that route at some point. Many do. But at the moment, a smaller place conveniently located for at least one daughter remains high on the agenda.

That’s why it was useful for us to hear from our daughters about possible changes and re-locations in their own lives in the years ahead. There might even be times when we could be helpful to them, which was nice to learn.

Nothing was decided, but as far as we can tell, there’s no need to decide anything right now.

Obviously, this talk was just the first of many, but it helped all of us sharpen our thinking about the future.  For us, it was a step in strengthening the “protective tribe” we may well need in the years ahead.

Seniors and “The Talk”

I always get annoyed when I come across an article or blog post advising reluctant adult children on how to prepare  for “the talk” with their aging parents. The proposed talk may be about giving up driving, sharing the management of finances, or moving to assisted living — but the underlying assumption is always that roles have been reversed and the parents have now become like children.  Seniors resent being regarded this way.

Still, I have to temper my annoyance when I reflect that there are seniors in the higher age brackets who haven’t come to grips with the realities of aging. Many live in a state of denial with respect to their driving skills, their housing situation, or their health. Sometimes, I’ve thought to myself that “so and so’s children really ought to get involved.” I admit it.

Seniors who take a practical, common-sense approach to aging can reduce the risk of being treated like children if we initiate preparations for advanced age while we are in our 60s and 70s. If we have children — children we can rely on — we should start the conversation with them ourselves. We can make them aware of our financial situation and  health status, and of our wishes for the living situation we want to be in when our faculties decline. We shouldn’t keep back important information about illnesses, falls, or accidents we might have had. That will only make rational decision-making more difficult for everyone.

Meanwhile, even if we don’t have children, we can start to get ready for the transitions that lie ahead. We can get that basement cleared out, and equip our homes for aging-in-place, if that’s our intention. We can make sure we’re in a location where transportation will be available when the time comes to give up driving. We can see to it that our wills, living wills, advance care directives, and health care proxies are in order.

We can, in short, assume some control over our own destinies, so that down the road, we’re not thought of as children in need of supervision.