7 February 2017

Will you stay independent as you get older?

Staying independent as you get older

Imagine this. You and your partner are in your 60s, have worked hard, saved well, and are looking forward to a long and happy retirement.

You’ve started a retirement folder of things you want to do and see.

You feel blessed to still have your parents, now in their 90s and three grown up children who between them have given you five lovely grandchildren. 

Everyone is doing great; everyone is independent.

So it comes as a shock when on the very cusp of your retirement, things begin to change. 

Your father has a fall at home and your mother is starting to forget things. You’re worried they’re not eating properly. Your suggestion they move into a residential care home is met with stony silence. They want to stay at ‘home’.

Meanwhile your eldest daughter wants to return to work and you’re the obvious candidate for school pick-ups.

Suddenly it feels like everybody needs you.

This scenario is the reality for many baby-boomers who are now finding themselves trapped between generations of need - literally squished between children, grandchildren, and elderly parents. 

This would be fine, so long as everyone had a plan.

But some people don’t. Our society is undergoing a seismic shift that is changing the way we approach old age and it’s taking time to adjust.

So what shall we do? And how can we protect our children from the same fate?

Unfortunately there’s no quick fix. 

Hopefully money isn’t an issue and your parents can afford to pay for the care they need to stay at home. However that’s only half the battle. They need to agree to it first!

This can be very difficult if they have lived independently until now. They might not consider themselves in need. Despite your best intentions, they may resent your ‘interference’.

Don’t shoulder this alone. Taking care of our most vulnerable family members is a big responsibility and there are lots of decisions to make. Ask other family members to help you.

Start thinking now about how you want to be cared for, and how you’ll fund that care. Write it down and discuss it with your children so when it’s time, everyone will know what to do.

Here’s some things to think about:

The State

District health boards fund care and support services that enable older people to stay in their own homes for as long as they are able.

These services can include help with showering, dressing, cleaning, meal preparation, and essential shopping.

Eligibility is determined by a Needs Assessment provided by your local DHB.

More information can be found here:


Your Savings

If you’re not eligible or need more care than the state is willing to provide, you’re going to have to pay for it. This needs to be factored in to your retirement planning. To do this, you’ll need to make some assumptions.

What age will you be retiring, what will your monthly expenses be, and hardest of all, how long do you think you’ll live?

How is your health now and what do you imagine it might be like in 20 years’ time?

Some of this will always be guesswork but at least it will give you a plan and a financial goal to work towards. Lifetime Retirement Income has an income calculator on its website that can help you calculate how much income you could get from your retirement savings:


Your Home

We all love our homes. But as we get older some homes are going to be more suitable than others.

Perhaps you could alter your existing home to make it more accessible? Just doing a few things like replacing steps with ramps can be a very cost-effective way to extend your time at home, and your money.


Your Community

If you want to maintain autonomy over your life, you need to think about your community.

Do you have friends and family close by, caring neighbours, a family GP, or a friendly pharmacist? These people will be vitally important to helping you maintain an independent old age. If you don’t have these people, then consider making a move.

But do this when you’re still willing and able to make those connections. Don’t leave it too late.

If you do, other people may need to make these sorts of decisions for you down the track and you could lose your independence earlier than you need to.

What will your income be in retirement?

Find out using our retirement income calculator