America's "Oldest Old' are increasing. This term refers to those who are age 80 or older. Media attention recently has focused on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Medicare benefit program and how when it was developed in 1965, the lifespan for an American senior was age 75. This is why Medicare benefits begin at age 65. But today age 75 seems rather young.
Our retirement years are going through an evolution as we realize we are more likely to live to be 100 than just age 75. This requires more money to be saved and for a game plan for a fulfilling lifestyle. But a reality of aging is also the fact that the human body was not built to last forever.
Aging is a natural process, for those of us who will be fortunate enough to experience it.
Doctor Atul Gawande, who has written books such as "The Checklist Manifesto", now has written "Being Mortal" to start a conversation on how accepting the aging process and planning ahead for how you would like for your senior care to be, should become as common as creating an estate plan. While Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care, Medicaid, for low-income seniors with few assets, does pay for an ongoing stay in a nursing home for seniors who qualify for this level of care. Understanding the costs of senior care are as important as choosing the type of senior care you would like, since the government program most of us will be on (Medicare) does not pay for long-term care.
Americans currently do not plan ahead for senior care, a fact all caregivers know.
Read "Being Mortal" and share it with those you care for to begin the conversation about how you would like to grow old, while also addressing the realities of changes that will be a natural part of aging. Think about how seasoned travelers prepare for a vacation: a carry-on bag has a change-of-clothes should our bags be delayed, a copy of our passport is in our wallet....
Dr. Gawande is a gifted writer and his book is an enjoyable read, even though it deals with tough topics. Begin the conversation with your loved ones and with yourself about how you picture your screenplay for growing old. Then you and your caregivers will know where the extra change of clothes are located - and if we even want to bother with them.