I read an article in the New York State Bar Association Journal by Robert Abrams that discussed our aging population and the coming Silver Tsunami. The article included some interesting and alarming statistics.
- By the year 2030, one out of every five Americans will be at least 65 years of age.
- As we age, life expectancy increases. Individuals who are 65 years old can project they will live into their late 70s or early 80s. Some will live well into their 90s, and a few will become centenarians.
- Millions of Americans have or will suffer from temporary and/or permanent mental incapacity.
- More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to dramatically increase over the next three decades.
- Millions of Americans do not have advance directives such as a power of attorney or health-care proxy, or they possess documents that are outdated or were executed incorrectly.
- Due to the lack of advance directives and/or available resources (money), many Americans become the subject of expensive and contested guardianship proceedings creating stress on family members who may not agree on health directives or asset allocation.
- Millions of Americans have either failed to develop an estate plan and/or have an estate plan that is either incomplete and/or will not be implemented in accordance with their wishes due to noncompliance with and/or a lack of familiarity with the “operation of law.” This requires the guidance of an attorney.
- Families are the centerpiece of American life. Many older Americans have been married two or more times. Many have concerns about other family members including adult children with special needs and their parents—yes their parents! How many of you reading this are or will be taking care of your aging parents?
This exploding demographic, the Silver Tsunami, may forever change the American way of life.
The article also revealed that when it comes to preparing for the elder years, there are three kinds of people: Geriatric Gamblers, Planning Procrastinators and Pragmatic Planners.
Geriatric Gamblers: These are risk takers who opt not to plan for the elder years even though they know such inaction increases the likelihood that they and their loved ones will needlessly suffer adverse consequences when they encounter one or more of life’s contingencies.
Planning Procrastinators: They recognize the importance of planning, but they believe there is no reason to plan for the elder years today. Preparation for the elder years can wait until tomorrow—assuming, of course, there is a tomorrow. This can have adverse ramifications.
Pragmatic Planners: Although they cannot fully predict or control the future, they recognize that at least they can prepare for those issues they are likely to confront. The pragmatic planner’s primary objective is to minimize the strain to themselves and their family members when difficult challenges do arise, like the need for long-term care.
Unfortunately, not enough of the Silver Tsunami are or will be proactive and become pragmatic planners, but it is clear that reliance on family, friends and government programs is not a good option, even if it is the choice by default. Perhaps now is the time to become proactive and reach out to your estate planner, elder-care attorney and financial advisor to create a comprehensive plan for you.